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 building
capacity 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 working
with 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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