• Cultural expectations in women’s economic empowerment: Case of women and men farmers in Uganda

    By Eileen Nchanji, Grace Nanyonjo, and Isaac Muggaga Common beans are a valuable crop across sub-Saharan Africa, contributing to food nutrition security and income for smallholder farmers. It was considered…

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  • Climate-resilient ‘super beans’ boost food rations for refugees in Uganda

    Climate-resilient ‘super beans’ boost food rations for refugees in Uganda Non-GMO and fast-growing, a high-yield bean variety is helping South Sudanese refugees feed their families and cultivate new…

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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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  • More nutritious flour for urban consumers and a better price for farmers

    When Tei Mukunya, Director of Azuri Health, prepared meals for her 112 year old grandmother, she had a realization. "It wasn’t easy to find a good range of nutritious, easily digestible foods that she liked. Most flour was made from  maize, and having a range of egetables and nutritious crops in flour wasn’t a possibility.  - Tei Mukunya, Director of Azuri Health So she and her family, working with women's groups, started making a nutri-porridge flour that contained other nutritious crops like beans and amaranth. "My grandmother really noticed the difference, and felt much better. It showed me that nutritious food can have such a big impact on people’s lives. With experience in marketing, she decided to shift her focus to producing and distributing nutritious flour and dried fruits for urban consumers. "People are busy, and convenient foods are not always nutritious. Our products are aimed at those who want an affordable, healthy product, that doesn’t take much time to prepare.   Since she started her company Azuri Health in 2010, production of dried fruits, sweet potato flour, and bean porridge, has jumped from 300 kilograms to 4 tons a year today. Her products are available across Kenya – 90 percent of her market is major retail outlets, but she also supplies to smaller urban shops. She has her sights set on exporting as well. She’s already received calls from interested buyers, and is in the process of setting upthe rigorous standards required to enter the European market. She’s testing the first of eight solar-powered “bubble” driers to be installed in Kenya and Uganda, as part of a project supported by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, to fight malnutrition among 50,000 rural and urban consumers.  During harvest time, all too often rain can damage crops as they dry. The driers retain bean quality and commercial value, while retaining all the nutritious qualities before they are turned into a porridge flour.   The project partnership includes the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization, supplying farmers with improved, nutritious and higher yielding bean varieties, which Azuri Health will then buy. Farmers are excited by this prospect. Joseph Kamoing, a member of the SATEWA group - an acronym merging the names of three villages - of 500 farmers growing the improved beans, says he can earn almost double the price he is currently earning with local varieties through the new partnership. "With these improved beans, ‘Chelalang’, we can get 7-8 bagsfor beans, compared with 2-3 bags using local bean varieties,    Usually we sell one bag for US$34but Azuri Ltd. have promised US$58. The extra income will help buy fertilizer for next season and pay school fees. As part of the project, scientists will also study malnutrition levels, where families source food, and how much they pay for it. This will generate a deeper understanding of which nutrients are a priority for adding to the porridge and how to best price the product for target consumers.  This work is part of the project “Making Value Chains Work for Food and Nutrition Security of Vulnerable Populations in East Africa” supported by Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ), and the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH). The project is led by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), in collaboration with the University of Hohenheim (UHOH), University of Göttingen (UGOE), Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) and Ugandan National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO). What's next Further research is needed to investigate consumer behavior, to improve diet choices.  Farmers can benefit from bulking their produce to sell to companies like Azuri Health, but often they are skeptical. Good examples of success like this are needed to deepen trust, and can be used in other areas to improve incomes and nutrition for consumers.

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  • 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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  • Transforming agriculture for better incomes and diets in Africa

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

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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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  • 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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