• News update

    This year, the Pan-Africa Bean Research Alliance (PABRA) celebrates 20 years of better beans for Africa  For 20 years, PABRA has helped to breed more nutritious, resilient beans for Africa.  Stay tuned by following this hashtag #PABRA20  and find out more about our work and initiatives here: http://bit.ly/2olaOu4

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  • Scaling success: leading change with the Syngenta Foundation

    The catalyst for change came from catastrophe in Kenya, when farmers in the western part of the country lost their maize harvest to disease in 2012. At that time, Jacinta Majimbo, a bean farmer from Bungoma district in Western Kenya, could never be sure what her harvest might yield. Without access to quality seed, she often ended up with plants that only had a few pods.Then she discovered bean KK-8. This large red mottled bean is now available in clear packaging with labelled credentials. She knows exactly what she’s buying: an early-maturing seed that’s resistant to root rot; cooks quickly and is high-yielding.For Jacinta, the advantages of harvesting an additional 35 kilograms of beans each season are obvious. “It provides more food, and I can sell some to pay for school fees and other expenses,” she says. “KK-8 has made a big difference.” Yet until a few years ago, she had never heard of it – or been able to find it at the market. Taking better seeds to scale During the time that Kenya’s maize was hit by disease, Jonathan Mayer, joint-owner of Bubayi Products Ltd – a family-run seed business in Kenya’s North Rift region – saw a big gap in the market to provide seeds of alternative crops. “I saw what disease was doing to maize. It was wiping out entire harvests. Farmers needed access to alternative crops that weren’t available at their local agro-dealer,” he said. Bubayi had the necessary infrastructure, land and skills to produce “quality seed” of a sufficiently high standard for sale to farmers. And unlike other companies, they were also willing to take the risk and invest their own money. Joining forces with One Acre Fund – with a ready market of 167,000 potential customers with a growing interest in bean seed – they took the risk. Tapping the emerging market Bubayi, One Acre Fund and the Kenyan Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization formed a public-private partnership, supported by the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture, to make KK-8 and other improved beans available to farmers. Led by KALRO, in partnership with CIAT through the Pan-Africa Bean Research Alliance, it brought together seed companies, individual seed entrepreneurs, bean traders and processors in Kenya.As explains CIAT’s Jean-Claude Rubyogo, a seed systems specialist and member of the PABRA network: “The private sector has the infrastructure and investment to really increase bean production. Through partnerships, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in seed availability and accessibility across Africa.” Dr. Reuben Otsyula, from KALRO’s research station in Kakamega, partnered with Bubayi to produce breeder seeds – a necessity in bean seed systems. He provided 80 grams of another high-performing bean, CAL194, to Bubayi Seed Company in late 2014. Two years later, there are 7,550kg of breeder seeds in bags waiting to be sold. “That’s the power of the private sector,” said Rubyogo. “The partnerships have transformed bean markets in Rwanda, Burundi and Kenya – successes which can be replicated in other countries,” said George Osure, Regional Director for the SFSA in East Africa. “The partnerships have transformed bean markets in Rwanda, Burundi and Kenya – successes which can be replicated in other countries.” George OsureRegional Director, Syngenta Foundation in East Africa Market-driven demand: listening to the consumer Improved bean varieties are now commercially available, through licensing of released varieties to private companies. This model has also sped up improved seed releases in other countries, through the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), for example. A formal process of release documentation in catalogues, for instance, means that iron-biofortified beans previously released in Rwanda, did not need to go through rigorous variety registration procedures all over again when they were released in Burundi. The return on investment speaks for itself: a US$1 million donor investment has already generated more than US$3 million in improved seed revenues. A total of 146,000 farmers in Rwanda, Burundi and Kenya now have access to improved bean varieties – on average, 15kg per farmer. This is estimated to bring in a potential income of US$248 per farm in each country. Farmers like Jacinta are realizing that with a minimal investment in higher quality, certified seeds they can triple their yields and avoid disappointment at harvest. Photo credits: Jean-Claude Rubyogo Call to Action: Further investment is required to scale this approach in Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Zambia to register varieties and issue licences translating into royalties with private companies from 2017. Policy makers need to invest in improved cross-country cataloguing standards, to spur cross-border trade and speed up new varieties releases, making business more attractive as economies of scale come into play. Investment by the private sector in the long-term is required to ensure licenses stay relevant for smallholder farmers and benefit them.

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  • R&D helping Africa have special beans to fight anaemia

    Dr. Mercy Lung’aho, a nutritionist at CIAT and member of the Pan-African Bean Research Alliance (PABRA) network, talks to Scidev.net about high iron beans – and how they can…

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  • The Pan-African Bean Research Alliance (PABRA) wrapped up its joint steering committee planning workshop, Nairobi, Kenya earlier this month, January 20th – February 2nd

    The workshop brought together more than 100 participants from across Africa, to plan the next phase of their research activities. Novel approaches to leverage better beans for more people…

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  • Snack bars with a winning twist: beans in the international spotlight

      When Harriet Aber entered the LovePulses Showcase competition with her special bean-amaranth energy bar, she never imagined it would take her from Uganda to Chicago. Yet her novel and nutritious snack won her second place in the LovePulses Showcase competition, presented at one of the biggest food expo events in the world at the Institute of Food Technologists, Chicago earlier this year. Harriet – a nutritionist at the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) and Makerere University – like the bean experts who gathered last week in Kampala to close the UN declared International Year of Pulses – has had an exciting year. She is among the hundreds of dedicated bean researchers in Uganda and across Africa, who have drawn attention to a crop we take for granted – yet that is critical for contributing to better, more nutritious diets in Africa. For Harriet and the community of pulse researchers working on the vitally important common bean, consumed by over 400 million people a year as part of their regular diet, this year has been about celebrating beans – and making them more available to consumers. CIAT’s Dr. Robin Buruchara, Director of the Pan-Africa Bean Research Alliance (PABRA), a major partner in bean research in Uganda, said: “It’s been a fantastic year for raising awareness of the importance of beans around the world – particularly in Africa, and especially in Uganda.” “But as this International Year draws to a close, the international bean research community will not be dimming the lights on the importance of beans for food and nutrition security across the continent. In fact, the awareness raising campaign this year has highlighted the need for more research to come.” Clare Mukankusi, also from CIAT and a PABRA bean breeder, said the role that beans can play in meeting targets laid out in the Sustainable Development Goals is vital, contributing to sustainable food production, climate mitigation and adaptation, nutrition and income generating goals. “If we’re going to continue to reduce hunger and improve nutrition in Africa, the common bean can help us do it,” she said. “That’s why this is just the start – we’re building on research to improve more beans for more people.” “Beans are essential, yet legumes in general are not getting the attention they deserve at policy level, and researchers are not empowered with the resources they need to get better beans in the hands of more farmers,” she added. “This needs to change, and we’re working with our national, international and regional partners through the PABRA network – which offers us a faster way to introduce and disseminate innovations in bean research across Africa.” Harriet Aber Nutritionist, National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) and Makerere University          " Researchers are not empowered with the resources they need to get better beans in the hands of more farmers. Clare Mukankusi Bean breeder, CIAT and PABRA Research has already shown that investment in bean genetic improvement is paying handsome dividends, she noted. For example, households growing improved varieties in Rwanda and Uganda, have increased yields by 53 and 60 percent respectively. The beans are becoming increasingly popular in other major bean producing countries like Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Kenya. Improved beans have strong, positive impacts on food security in East Africa. For example, CIAT studies indicated that food insecurity would be 2 and 16 percent higher in Uganda and Rwanda respectively without the improved varieties. In Ethiopia, beans improved for canning by the private sector have revolutionized bean production and marketing, with the number of farmers engaged in the value chain increasing by 200 per cent from 0.5 million in 2004 to 1.5 million in 2015. Since 1996, more than 550 new bean varieties have been released across Africa by PABRA members – including high iron varieties which reduce iron deficiency and anemia in young women in Rwanda. Harriet’s Bean Amaranth Energy bar, containing popped amaranth and honey – and Jane Tsela Bean Jam entry from Swaziland which came third in the same competition – are examples of the innovative approaches bean researchers have already used to ensure quality, affordable and nutritious beans reach more people – achievements they will build upon in coming years. Call to action: CIAT and PABRA continue to work with bean programs in more than 30 countries across Africa to strengthen capacity in national research programs and support cutting-edge bean research for improved food and nutrition security in Africa. We will continue to work towards sharing scientific data on bean research – for example establishing common cataloging procedures across all countries – so we can accelerate learning, and fast-track the development of better beans in national feeding programs. The International Year of Pulses has raised global awareness of the importance of beans in our diets. We will build on this momentum to ensure beans are more accessible, affordable and nutritious for the public.

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  • Bean researchers in Ethiopia win highest accolade

    The Ethiopia Bean Research Programme led by the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) has won the highest scientific award in the Ethiopia – the Gold medal and…

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  • Clare Mukankusi, Bean Breeder at CIAT, Kawanda, Uganda

    In the dry afternoon breeze, Clare Mukankusi pulls on a light khaki lab coat. The 18 acre plot at Kawanda, part of Uganda’s National Agricultural Research Organization, is remote…

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  • First drought-resilient, high iron beans for Uganda released

    Five new bean varieties bred with high iron and resilience to the impacts of drought were released in Uganda for the first time on Friday 22nd July. The varieties – co-developed…

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  • Derese Eshete, Ethiopian Agricultural Research Institute, Ethiopia

    As a senior research technician, Derese Eshete has spent his career with one goal in mind: to improve the living conditions of the farmers he believes he is working…

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  • Eating high-iron beans reduces iron deficiency in just a few months

    Eating specially-bred, high-iron beans twice-a-day for just four-and-a-half months reduced iron deficiency and anaemia in young women in Rwanda, according to a new study. Iron deficiency is the world’s leading…

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