• Empowering women to take leadership roles in bean business platforms in Rwanda

    Participants of the bean business platform workshop in Kigali, Rwanda. (Credit; Lilies Gachanja) by Eileen Nchanji, Eliud Birachi, Mercy Mutua, Leonidas Dusenge and Lilies Gachanja Pan Africa Bean Research Alliance (PABRA)…

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  • Closing the gender gap in farming households: An entry point towards agricultural transformation in Africa

    By Eileen Nchanji, Chantal Ingabire and Eliud Birachi Agricultural transformation is one of the leading efforts for poverty reduction and food security in Africa. Governments, development agencies and researchers agree…

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  • VOA

    Iron-Fortified Beans Winning Customers in Rwanda, Uganda

    Iron-Fortified Beans Winning Customers in Rwanda, Uganda A recent study by the Global Nutrition Report 2017 shows that eating beans bred to contain more iron boosts memory and…

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  • How Can Ugandan Farmers Ease South Sudan Hunger Crisis?

    by Georgina Smith | Dec 13, 2017 This is post is part of our climate campaign in Africa. The story has appeared in several news outlets including Associated Press, the New…

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  • The road out of poverty depends on feeding our children nutritious food first

    by Mercy Lungaho At the 2017 Borlaug Dialogue this week, October 18-20, Dr. Mercy Lung’aho says feeding our youth more nutritious food is critical for a prosperous Africa. Her opinion piece was first published by Inter Press Service News Agency.  One drizzly morning in some lush green tea plantations in Rwanda, I was on my way to visit a local community, to assess nutrition indicators among women and children. We stopped in a green blanket of tea fields and spoke to one young tea picker, I’ll call her Mary, who had a baby strapped to her back. What I remember distinctly is that while her baby was probably the same age as my young son at home, he was about half the size. We chatted briefly about her job. Surrounded by the tea leaves, she said she was curious about how they tasted. She had never tasted tea. Later that day, we got the tea pickers together for a discussion. I asked them how often they ate meat. There was a ripple of laughter through the group. “Christmas Day,” they all said in unison. When I asked the group what they would do with every extra dollar saved, they did not tell me they would buy better food. Instead, they all agreed: “We would buy shoes”. Waking up at 4am to walk to the tea farm would be more comfortable in good shoes. What I understood more fully after this meeting was what I had already suspected: that nutrition had taken a back-seat in this farming community. We have collected evidence which shows that eating specially-bred, high-iron beans twice-a-day for just four-and-a-half months can reduce iron deficiency and actually reverse anemia in young women in Rwanda. The nutrition evidence we collected that day showed that anemia was prevalent. Like the small baby on her back, Mary was malnourished. So the cycle of malnutrition continues. Agriculture has a strange way of leaving the vulnerable behind, and this is what we must stop. The nutritional magic of beans At the Pan African Bean Research Alliance in collaboration with HarvestPlus, we have collected evidence which shows that eating specially-bred, high-iron beans twice-a-day for just four-and-a-half months can reduce iron deficiency and actually reverse anemia in young women in Rwanda. Our research, published in The Journal of Nutrition, was the first of its kind to show that eating “biofortified” beans, bred to contain more iron, can have a significant impact on iron levels in the blood and improve brain function. Our results were tremendously exciting: they show for the first time that these beans are an excellent vehicle for delivering long-term, low-cost major health solutions – with profound implications for global nutrition, agriculture and public health policy. Our research further shows that, fast-tracking nutrition in mothers before they even become pregnant is essential if we want to tackle malnutrition and put a stop to the vicious cycle of poverty and economic stagnation that poor diets perpetuate. Adolescent nutrition before pregnancy has a bigger impact on stunting in children than we thought. We need to target undernourished women like Mary with nutritious food – well before they are pregnant. Tackling malnutrition before it strikes Instead of focusing on preventing malnutrition, we are too busy responding to food crises. We are fighting fires, instead of making sure they don’t happen in the first place. This is a crisis, and we must treat it like one. That is why we are spearheading the development of a Nutrition Early Warning System, or NEWS. It will take advantage of the latest advances in “machine learning” to create a powerful tool that can process, track and monitor a constant flow of data relevant to food and nutrition – alerting decision makers well before malnutrition becomes apparent. We are currently working on a prototype of NEWS, which will initially focus on boosting nutrition in sub-Saharan Africa, eventually targeting vulnerable populations globally.  It will analyze the nutritional status of populations in select countries in sub-Saharan Africa to find options for successful interventions. I cannot look the other way while women and children are dying of anemia and stunting on our watch. I’m positive that we can fix it. As I join other food security experts at the Borlaug Dialogue this week – I will be sharing these lessons, as evidence that investing in agriculture can create vibrant rural areas that provide a road out of poverty. A pathway towards employment, wealth creation, and economic growth that includes young people. But unless we focus on getting our young people a more nutritious diet, we will continue to fail millions like Mary – and her baby – before they have even had a chance to make a start in life. Report: Using Artificial Intelligence and Big Data to tackle Africa’s malnutrition crisis. Study: Showing iron-biofortified beans linked with improved memory and attention span  

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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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  • Banking on a Sustainable Future: From one diverse continent to another

    Common beans evolved in often extreme environments. They offer important opportunities for breeders across Africa to breed beans in varied conditions – from humid highland environments, to near-arid environments with high temperatures and drought. ThePhaseolus genus has what it takes to confront problems that for years we thought to be intractable. Dr. Steve Beebe, CIAT's Bean Program Leader   PABRA’s bean breeding programs are closely integrated with CIAT’s program at its headquarters in Cali, Colombia, which hosts the largest Phaseolus bean genebank in the world, containing over 37,000 bean types. Beans with high iron, resistance to diseases such as root rots, heat tolerance, drought tolerance, tolerance to soil problems, and insect resilience, are uniquely bred in Colombia, or made available to PABRA’s partners. This represents huge potential: for example, using Phaseolus coccineus, the scarlet runner bean, researchers in Rwanda continue tobreed beans with even higher levels of acid soil tolerance of up to pH 4 – which could dramatically improve yields in environments in western Rwanda, northern Zambia, and other countries. Beans stored in the genebank show potential for unique disease resistance that has not yet been tapped in Africa. Reports suggest that some bean species may carry resistance to the most destructive pest of bean in Africa - bean stem maggot. If beans resilient to bean stem maggot could be released in Africa, that would be a major step forward, making beans more profitable for farmers.  

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  • Transforming agriculture for better incomes and diets in Africa

    Citation PABRA. 2017. Transforming agriculture for better incomes and diets…

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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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  • 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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