• Nutritious meals for cash-strapped and busy mothers launched in Kenya

    Fast-cooking beans and nutritious bean snacks have hit supermarket shelves in Western Kenya. The products target women who may need to prepare meals in a short period of time for the whole family.  The fast-cooking beans have been pre-cooked, and only need to be boiled for 15 minutes. They contain all the nutrition and appearance of regular dry beans and others come in a packet like peanuts and can be eaten right away. Regular dry beans can take around three hours to cook, requiring more firewood or charcoal. Fetching firewood or buying charcoal take up time, energy and money, mostly impacting women and girls, who are in charge of preparing meals and collecting firewood, and who may also have another job.  Developed together with the private sector company Lasting Solutions Ltd., the pre-cooked beans and snacks are labeled “quick-cook” or “ready to eat”, and have been industrially precooked, using water but no preservatives or additives. A team of PABRA researchers tested 47 bean varieties to establish which ones can cook faster while still retaining their taste, color,shortlisting 12.  Joab Ouma, Director of Lasting Solutions, a partner in the development of both products, said:  "This partnership combines knowledge about beans, with the needs of consumers.  When Lasting Solutions reaches full capacity, it expects that ten percent of customers across Kenya who currently buy dry beans, will switch to pre-cooked beans.  Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO)’s National Coordinator for Grain Legumes, David Karanja, said the products will also help Kenya plug a 60 percent gap in local consumer demand, while buildingcapacity of local industries to generate income.  "This innovative partnership combines research and private sector expertise to move a product into the market, responding directly to our objective to have impact at scale. These will save women’s time and improve nutrition. What we like about workingwith this type of partnership is that they make products more easily available for low- and middle-income households – especially women.  The products are also good news for farmers like Nancy Adhiambo. Already a bean grower, she struggled to find a good market and price for her beans. Then, through local charity Caritas Internationalis, she found out about two of the 12 varieties sought by Lasting Solutions. The development of precooked beans and bean snack products use the Commodity Corridor approach, which brings together partners in bean production, distribution, and consumption hubs.   The US$2.5 million, three-year project, is funded under the Cultivate Africa’s Future Fund, a program of Canada’s IDRC and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR). The pre-cooked beans project is led by KALRO in Kenya, and in Uganda by NARO, with CIAT through PABRA.

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  • Beans without Borders

    Beans are essential in sub-Saharan Africa. In East Africa alone, they are among the most-traded commodity. Dr. Clare Mukankusi, Regional Bean Breeder My dream has always been to reach the poorest in Africa through science. And now, as a “doctor of plants,” as my children call me, I help regulate the flow of beans between the world’s largest bean genebank in Colombia and many countries in Africa.  Beans are essential in sub-Saharan Africa. In East Africa alone, they are among the most-traded commodity, and a meal is often considered incomplete without them. In many African countries, every woman, with only a very small piece of land, can grow and sell beans, to put a nutritious meal on the table.  Thanks to decades of research, we have already made huge progress in improving beans. They are now more nutritious and affordable, and the plants are more productive and hardy in the face of heat and drought.   But if we’re going to meet the Sustainable Development Goals, end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, we’re going to need to raise the bar even higher. That ’s why the 37,000 accessions at CIAT’s global bean collection in Colombia, and the 3,000 at our genebank in Uganda are at the heart of the work of PABRA to improve beans for the continent.   As a breeder, I rely on genetic diversity to make progress. If one bean variety is lost forever, we might never know how its unique attributes could have helped us – and future generations – tackle specific challenges, especially in light of future threats like weather extremes.

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  • Lessons from field day in Tanzania

    By Jean Claude Rubyogo More than 300 farmers, companies, extension agents and media attended a field day at the Agriculture Seed Agency (ASA) seed farm at Ngaramtoni in Arusha, Tanzania,…

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  • New, improved bean varieties enhance food security and diet diversity in Malawi

    By Enid Katungi Our recent study, conducted to evaluate the performance of PABRA over the last two decades, shows remarkable achievements in terms of productivity and the number of people…

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  • Drought, pests and disease on the rise hit harvests in Zimbabwe

    By Enid Katungi For the past two decades, the Pan-Africa Bean Research alliance (PABRA), has stepped-up efforts in Zimbabwe to help farmers boost their bean production as a pathway to reducing poverty.  This is done with the support of the Swiss Agency for Cooperation and Development (SDC). With the same support, we conducted a nation-wide baseline survey, interviewing 750 bean growing households in 2016.  Our findings show that incidences of drought, pests and disease are on the rise, causing significant yield loss – especially for farmers who rely on rain-fed agriculture. Farmers who have access to irrigation are better able to mitigate the effects of drought, by applying more inputs to obtain higher yields. But for those relying on rain-fed agriculture, access to more resilient bean varieties is more urgent than ever. In addition, improved bean seeds need to be used in tandem with fertilizers at optimal rates. High seed prices pose another limiting factor for smallholder farmers, and strategies to reduce the price of seed may include linking community based seed production with formal seed companies, strengthening rural based-seed marketing outlets. Our results show that any innovation including seeds – to be attractive to farmers – should increase bean yields by at least 30 percent under rain-fed, and 10 percent under irrigated conditions. Gender implications: The study also highlights some socioeconomic aspects critical for maximizing impacts. First, use of irrigation in bean production increases demand for labor. Women are more likely to bear the burden of unpaid labor, while men benefit from increased demand for hired labor. Although women mostly influence decisions around bean production, men still control various aspects of sale. Women also decide what is put on the family table for food – but the research shows that while families may cultivate beans, 33 percent of households eat beans only once a week, compared to 4.6 times a week by food secure households. These outcomes of the report urge that complementary interventions – in addition to improved bean varieties – are necessary. Lessons learned… Farmers are generally satisfied with the bean market traits but a significant number of them would prefer to access new varieties that are improved in their production traits to cope with increase in production constraints. From this study, we have learnt that private seed companies play an important role in variety diffusion in Zimbabwe, but their marketed varieties cannot be easily identified by farmers. Thus knowledge management systems should consider integrating actors including farmers to facilitate the closing of this knowledge gap. As the new technologies are disseminated to farmers, there is also need to monitor how gender influences uptake as well as changes in gender roles and control over beans. Photo credit: Neil Palmer / CIAT  

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  • PABRA Annual Report 2016/2017 – 20th Anniversary Special Edition

    Citation PABRA. 2017. PABRA Annual Report 2016/2017 – 20th Anniversary Special Edition . Pan-Africa Bean Research Alliance – PABRA . Nairobi, KE. 41 p..

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  • Defining a new approach: better beans for Africa

    By Dr. Robin Buruchara, Director of the Pan-Africa Bean Research Alliance (PABRA) Editorial of PABRA Annual Report 2016 – 20th Anniversary Special Edition Venture onto any small farm…

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  • When spiders unite, they can tie up a lion

    By Debisi Araba, Regional Director for Africa, CIAT There’s an Ethiopian proverb: “When spiders unite, they can tie up a lion.” I’ve always been fascinated with the potential of sustained…

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  • Finding white gold

    By Dr. Jean-Claude Rubyogo, Seed Systems Specialist and East and Central Africa Bean Research Network (ECABREN) Coordinator There was a time when, as researchers, our focus was on breeding beans to…

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  • Commodity Corridors: A paradigm shift in PABRA’s business

    In the last 20 years, PABRA researchers have found that novel approaches are needed to eliminate bean production bottlenecks. We have made significant progress towards getting better beans to…

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