The New Times (Kigali)

21 October 2012

Rwanda: New Seed Varieties to Boost Bean Production

In a bid to improve food production, HarvestPlus, a Global Challenge Program of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), has come up with new varieties of beans that are set to increase yields.

The new iron-rich bean varieties were bred by the Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB) and the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).

According to Lister Katsvairo, HarvestPlus Country Manager, the new variety has the ability to do well in drought prone areas and mature within less than three months.

He noted that HarvestPlus seeks to develop and disseminate staple food crops, which are relatively high in bioavailable micronutrients as a promising means to reduce micronutrient malnutrition in developing countries.

"The initial target micronutrients are iron, zinc, and vitamin A. We shall support farmers, both big and small. Our aim is to allow every household to produce and eat iron-rich beans".

Katsvairo, noted that in Rwanda, anemia, which is used as an indicator of iron deficiency, afflicts almost one out of five non-pregnant women and 40 percent of children under‐five years.

"Children and women will be the main beneficiaries of these new bean varieties, which could provide up to 30 percent of their daily iron needs. Anemia in pregnant mothers and adolescents is common in Rwanda, the beans thus offer a solution," he said.

He added that HarvestPlus operates all over Africa, but Rwanda's culture makes it a potential beans hub for the continent.

Katsvairo said the project that started 5 years ago, was expected to continue until 2018.

"We spend not less than $1 million a year in Rwanda. This is quite a lot but worth the investment. Farmers are offered all sorts of support; including exposure. We thus expect a big boost in health and the economy".

HarvestPlus impact

Farmers have conceptualised the idea of growing new bean seed varieties. A local Seed Company known as Rwanda Improved Seed Company (RISC) was recently born in Matimba Sector of Nyagatare District.

It plans to increase its output to match a sharp rise in demand for certified beans maize seeds, both locally and in the region.

RISC Managing Director, John Murara, has invited individual landowners to engage in producing iron-rich beans.

"We were motivated by a number of things to work as seed multipliers...with the new varieties; production per hectare has increased from one ton to 2.5 or three tons. We are also assured of a market from either RAB or HarvestPlus," he said.

The seed company that primarily targets the local market, has started producing and packing beans in special paper bags.

The company has also embraced mechanised agriculture abandoning the traditional hoe that limited production.

According to Benjamin Ngabo, a farmer and member of the seed company, a tractor was bought to cater for cultivation on the big land.

"Agriculture is very profitable; I started it when my venture into cow rearing went wrong. It all started when my cows were stolen, I was at first depressed, but it was a blessing in disguise because I had never gotten even a tenth of what I get from crops," he said.

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