Canada’s partnership contributes to improved food security and inclusive entrepreneurship in Africa

As part of his recent visit to Kenya, Rwanda and South Sudan, the Pan-Africa Bean Research Alliance (PABRA) and International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) Nairobi offices were greatly honored to host Honorable Harjit S. Sajjan (https://pm.gc.ca/en/cabinet/honourable-harjit-s-sajjan),  the Minister of International Development and Minister responsible for the Pacific Economic Development Agency of Canada. He was accompanied by 14 delegation members from Ottawa and High Commission in Nairobi.

The Minister and his delegation visit involved a tour of the exhibitions highlighting the PABRA and Icipe’s research for development outputs. Through PABRA’s displays, the delegation was briefed on the PABRA model, its membership, objectives, mode of operations and achievements including research products and partnerships. The interactions continued with Kenya-based PABRA members along the bean value chain. These included the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) which shared with the Minister and his delegation the collaboration with the Alliance Bean Beam regarding the variety development and release, engagement with partners for wider use of the bean research products. This was followed by Agriscope Ltd, – a seed company commercializing Angaza and Faida, high iron and zinc beans varieties (released by KARLO) supplying about about 200 tons of seed per year. The following stop was with Hellen Ruto representing Abosi Top Hill, a Cooperative of over 500 farmers involved bean production and marketing. Furthermore, the Minister and his delegation interacted with Delish and Nutri- a bean off-taker specializing in packing high iron beans from smallholder farmers (women) and marketing about 60 tons per year through major shops and market outlets across Nairobi. The last stop was with the bean women entrepreneurs/processors namely, Cherubet Foods (Cherubet Company – Providing ready-to-eat, healthy, convenient, nutritious and affordable foods), and Smart Logistics (Smart Logistics Solution Limited – We are creating high-quality affordable products).

Hon. Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of International Development and Minister responsible for the Pacific Economic Development Agency of Canada with some of PABRA partners at the event

The Pan Africa Bean Research Alliance is a Pan African program under the Alliance of Bioversity and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture. PABRA is made up of an international network of national agricultural research institutions, across 31 countries in sub-Sahara Africa with more than 500 partner organizations. PABRA’s vision is to increase access to market, climate-resilient, micronutrient-rich bean varieties and inclusive crop management techniques to reduce poverty and increase income, food and nutrition security amongst diverse value chain actors. Beans are a staple food and source of protein for most households in the PABRA targeted country, with per capita annual consumption between 10 to 50kg.

For the past 25 years, PABRA has received support from the Canadian Government through  Global Affairs Canada to realize these goals.  The current support by the Canadian government is through the Improving Bean Production and Marketing in Africa (IBPMA) project. This project seeks to address food insecurity, gender inequality, boost trade and business through the corridor approach. The Corridor Approach focuses on improving the bean flow through production intensification, linking farmers with markets for their beans, while addressing challenges such as nutrition. “Linking farmers and private sector players – processors, seed companies will ensure that food security is addressed, and nutritious foods are grown. Grown by around 150 million small holder farmers (majority being women), Beans are the number one source of protein for over 350 million people in sub-Sahara Africa. The Bean Corridor Approach remains a blueprint model for other models that are up to achieve food security, empower smallholder farmers particularly women and youth.” emphasized, Jean Claude Rubyogo, Director PABRA.

He continued, “Through the corridor approach, we have been able to collectively improve the livelihoods of millions of men, women and youth smallholder farmers and other value chain actors.”

Jean Claude Rubyogo, Director, PABRA explaining to the Minister how the corridor approach works

In collaboration with different national research institutions, we have codesigned demand-led approach, producing market, micronutrient-rich and climate-resilient to meet consumer preferences and address production gaps. The partnerships that have been forged with the support of Canada can be traced to the work of KALRO Bean Research and Development Program, one of the countries that have released the highly demanded high iron and zinc beans to address malnutrition and poverty in the country. These seeds were licensed to private sector partners such as Agricope (former East African Seeds) Ltd , a seed company for wider dissemination targeting the last mile and most vulnerable farmers.

Thanks to the project and continued support, smallholder farmers like Hellen Ruto, through farmer groups (Abosi Tophill Cooperative Society) have been able to access good quality seed and training have moved improved their production to meet household food nutrition security as well as for market to earn income. The Cooperative has grown from producing five metric tons in 2020 to producing 160 tons in 2021, selling 110 metric tonnes and preserving the rest for consumption. The income earned has been used for paying school fees, home improvement and paying medical costs for the family. The cooperative has been linked to aggregators like Delish and Nutri who pay a better price, process and pack the beans and deliver them to the markets.

The Bean corridor approach has paved way for innovation in healthy value addition foods, with women taking the lead. Companies have developed and are selling pre-cooked beans, to help save energy, fuel, environment and time in preparing food. Cherubet Foods has been able to take advantage of such a market, selling a highly nutritious porridge made from a mixture of different flours like maize, millet, sorghum and beans. The innovation does not stop there. Smart Logistics Limited has created a bean flour that enhances the taste of stews and a bean-based noodle that cooks in 5 minutes.  

The Honorable Minister commended the research and development by PABRA that shows impacts along the bean value chain particularly benefiting women and developing their entrepreneurial skills.   He was impressed by the PABRA partnership and the progress members had made in achieving this goal.

On behalf of the PABRA members, the Alliance appreciates the long-term support by the Canadian Government that has enabled bean research and development to deliver transformative outputs.  For instance, between 2015-2021, through the PABRA partnership, about 24.2 million smallholder farmers (67% being women) accessed quality seed of improved varieties, 3.5 million (49% being women) engaged in more profitable bean market and increased their income by more 117% and 277 entrepreneurs (25% being women) supplying bean products and services to the value chain actors. 


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