The INFAS project focuses on accessing farmers’ technological innovations that will impact food, nutrition and income to SHFs. The common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) is an important crop, especially in East Africa. It is grown by SHFs who mostly intercrop it with other crops. It grows in altitudes between 500 and 2,300 m above sea level and thrives where rainfall on verage is between 500 to 2,000 mm per annum.
Beans are versatile and if dried well and stored properly can provide families with food security of between 3–6 months. Many farmers produce it as a food crop, with surplus being sold to neighbors and in the local markets. All parts of the bean can be consumed, from the leaves to immature beans, green beans and dry beans. Beans are also acceptable to all
groups of a community – from children, adolescents, lactating mothers, fathers and the elderly, including vegetarians. It is not an expensive food and is easily obtained in many local markets.
Beans contain most of the necessary nutrients required by the human body. They provide
carbohydrates, which lower blood sugar and reduce weight, while also giving us the energy to work. They contain proteins, promoting growth especially in children, building body tissue and rebuilding blood cells in the sick and the elderly. They also contain oil, which helps in generation of heat in the human body. And they provide us with unsaturated fats that help
us avoid hyper-tension. Beans are a good source of most vitamins, such as A, D, E, K, B and C. Vitamins protect the body from various diseases, and strengthen the eyes, bones and skin. They also provide fiber, which is important in the digestion process for it reduces fat in the
blood vessels and prevents heart disease. Despite the benefits mentioned above, a lot of people in rural communities avoid these beans because they are perceived as the food of low income earners or those not able to afford meat or fish. Though beans vary in color, flavor and texture, they have the same nutritional value. This is different when it comes to iron; it has been found that white beans contain a high percentage of iron, followed by black ones, while red ones contain the least. The project focuses on promoting bean varieties fortified with iron and zinc to help meet the nutritional.
needs of the beneficiaries, especially women and children. Those that are not fortified have been bred with suitable agronomic traits such as resistance to root rot and bean rust. Natural resource management such as soil fertility is considered. Legumes, such as beans, fix nitrogen back in the soil for long-term sustainability.
We decided to focus on not just beans availability, but the varieties that are resistant to the most common bean diseases. Other considerations were: nutritional enhancement, adaptability and marketability of surplus produce. The project also focused on the establishment of the private sector-driven seed system; considerable work has taken place to identify different role players and understand challenges facing the legume and more specifically, bean value chain. Discussions were held with partners and stakeholders in all the three target countries. This was because although there were private seed multiplication companies, they did not stock the varieties that the researchers were recommending. The identified bean varieties are being provided by research organizations in
three countries the Agricultural Research Institute (ARI) Maruku in Tanzania, Institut des Sciences Agronomiques du Burundi (ISABU) in Burundi and KALRO Kakamega in Kenya.
After relevant consultations it was agreed that the quickest way to multiply the identified bean varieties for the farmers’ use was to use the quality declared seed (QDS) system which is also regulated by national government agencies.