8 December 2012

Rwanda: 'Wonder' Bean Variety Excites Farmers

Ruhango — There is growing hope among farmers following the introduction of iron-rich beans which are expected to boost nutrition among the population, contribute to their wellbeing and provide more iron in the diets of families that consume beans.

The bean varieties, which were introduced with the aim of fighting malnutrition are yet to be embraced by all farmers across the country. But for those who have adopted them, the benefits are begining to show.

Mukankusi Judith, 58, has been growing one of the many varieties of the iron rich beans for about a year now.

Mukankusi, a resident of Byimana sector in Ruhango district, says her productivity has been increasing since she has been growing the new variety.

"My production has almost doubled", she notes. "These new varieties give really much produce than the traditional ones".

However, while growing the new beans, she is also looking for something else apart from the high yield. She is looking for nutritious elements contained in the beans.

In fact, the new variety is rich in iron and Zinc- two nutritious elements that human beings need for their health.

"One of the things which pushed me to adopt the new variety is that it is nutrient-rich," she says.

However, Mukankusi did not ignore the economic benefits which accompany the growing of these varieties.

"By yielding higher, we have enough beans for consumption and a surplus to sale," she says.

Mukankusi is not the sole resident in her area to have embraced the new bean varieties.

Others, as well, have started growing iron-rich beans. These are, distinctively, members of a local farming cooperative, Impakomu.

The 384 members have benefited from a support programme by HarvestPlus, an international organisation which is working on disseminating bio-fortified bean varieties across the country.

The organisation, in partnership with the Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB), has supplied Iron-rich bean seeds to farmers in some parts of the country.

Bucyanayandi Telesphore, 78, a member of the cooperative, says they are expecting high yields following the adoption of the new varieties.

"I look forward to better and improved health," he says.

"I also expect to gain much money from the produce, which we expect to increase".

Lister Katsvairo, the HarvestPlus Country Manager, says there are a lot of benefits from the new improved bean varieties.

Apart from their quality of being rich in iron and zinc, he says, the beans are also disease resistant.

"Iron and Zinc have enough benefits for human health. They increase people's ability to do work and concentrate and are responsible for physical growth," he said.

While on a field visit in Byimana sector on Friday, Katsvairo told farmers that the beans are a sustainable solution to health problems, like anaemia or iron deficiency.

A survey conducted about five years ago revealed that in Rwanda, anaemia affects almost one out of five non-pregnant women and 40% of children under-five, Katsvairo said.

"Beans form part of everyday meal of most people and growing iron-rich varieties will make a remarkable health impact", the official noted, adding that his organisation is working tirelessly to have the iron-rich varieties adopted across the country.

Apart from the health benefits, Katsvairo said the beans give farmers an opportunity to increase their production, thus generating enough revenues from their activities.

He said with the new varieties, farmers yield about two tons of beans per hectare, up from 700 kilograms of the traditional varieties.

"With these new varieties, farmers have enough [beans] to consume and to sale", he observed, noting that the beans are also highly marketable due to their large seed size and their preferred colours, including red and white that are sought for local and urban markets.

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