According to the WHO, every second pregnant woman and about 40 per cent of preschool children in developing nations are anaemic.
Mercy Lung'aho, a nutritionist at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Kenya, said that beans provides protein, complex carbohydrates and valuable micronutrients for more than 300 million people in the tropics.
In an exclusive interview with SciDev.Net during Global Pulse Day last month (18 January), she said that beans are grown in Sub-Saharan Africa countries such as Angola, Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, South Sudan and Swaziland.
“Research is helping farmers beat climate change with more drought-resilient, pest-free beans.”
Mercy Lung'aho, International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)
Lung'aho explained that beans contain essential minerals, vitamins, proteins and an abundance of soluble fibre, which lowers cholesterol levels.
She added that production of beans in Sub-Saharan Africa faces challenges such as reducing land sizes, climate change, poor soils and poor seed systems.
“Research is helping farmers beat climate change with more drought-resilient, pest-free beans,” said Lung'aho, adding that the discovery of 30 new types of “heat-beater” beans could keep production from crashing in large swaths of bean-dependent Africa and Latin America.
“These strains of heat-tolerant beans thrive [in] increasing temperatures. This will not only protect food territory but also expand new territories,” Lung'aho told SciDev.Net.
Lusike Wasilwa, director of crop systems at the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization, tells SciDev.Net that beans are important because they are a link to poverty reduction and second most stable crop in most African countries.
“Agronomic packages have been developed to allow low use of pesticides [such as] push-pull technologies,” says Wasilwa.
In Africa, common beans are a major stable food crop in most countries and are recognised as most important source of human dietary protein.
But Wasilwa notes several constraints that affect bean productivity including pests, diseases, drought, low soil nutrients and postharvest losses. Farmer-to-farmer exchange to move bean seed model is also inefficient in covering wider areas and there is lack of access to clean planting material in some regions, she adds.
According to Wasilwa, research and development (R&D) on beans could lead to appropriate technologies to increase yields by deploying superior varieties, adding that use of pesticides and biological control could help control pests and diseases whereas the development of appropriate storage technologies could prevent postharvest losses.
“Because it embraces agriculture product value chains, R&D is promoting public-private partnerships for stronger linkages to promote commercialisation,” she notes.
This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk.