Durable staking innovations for climbing beans in Rwanda

Durable staking innovations for climbing beans in Rwanda

23 January 2015. Plant breeding in revolutionizing agriculture. One of Rwanda’s country’s top priority crop ‘the bean’ through the adoption and improvement of the climbing beans has become one of the most successful agricultural innovations in the recent times.
Since the existence of ISAR (Rwanda Agriculture Research Institute) and now RAB (Rwanda Agriculture Board) more than 50 years ago, the bean program has officially released more than 80 bean varieties: bush, climbing or snap types. Many more may be out there with the farmers outside the official list, through what is called informal releases. Twenty five of these were released in the last four years, thanks to AGRA and other partners support. 
In 2010, ten of these varieties were found to be rich in micro-nutrients, particularly in iron and or zinc and are intensively promoted for alleviation of anemia and other mental retarding micro-nutrient malnutrition deficiencies besides the protein nutrition among children and women.
Augustin Musoni, Senior Research Fellow, 

Plant Breeder and Leader of the Bean Program 

at the Rwanda Agriculture Board

The climbing beans technology encourages afforestation and environment protection. (…) Many farmers lose enthusiasm on growing climbing beans due to this staking problem, particularly in new areas like in the east where climbing beans are being introduced and agroforestry is yet to take root. 


We have recently developed and published an innovation for staking where locally available trellises (strings and codes or even knitting threads) are strategically combined with wood in the ratio of 70:30. This was the most acceptable to farmers, despite some loss in yields compared to the exclusive use of wood. The yield differences were, however, statistically insignificant. So we are promoting this innovation alongside the agroforestry options.

(…) With the high yielding varieties (with a potential of more than 5 MT per ha) now in place, if the staking challenge was fully contained, Rwanda can perhaps produce surplus beans that can feed the rest of region, even beyond.


Background
Success breeds success, more partners have come in, they include the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in East and Central Africa (ASARECA), USAID’s Agriculture Technology Development and Transfer (ATDT) project, the grain Pulses Collaborative Research Support Program, Kirkhouse Trust, Bio-innovate and now HarvestPlus Projects funded by  the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), Rockefeller Foundation, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC), Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), now the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), SIDA, the Syngenta Foundation, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Bank and others direct but usually indirectly through the above mentioned partners. The bean program was becoming more and more donor-attractive. An alliance of partners was always most effective.

Related:
10 – 13 November, 2014. Kigali, Rwanda. The Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) organised a three-day conference of Modern and Visionary Plant Breeders in Africa. The climax of the conference was a field trip to the Northern District of Burera, where over 150 participants traveled to witness the top and hillsides of growing climbing beans, throughout the five-hour return trip to Kigali. They settled in Rusarabuye sector and heard testimonies among farmers about the socio-economic benefits and impacts derived from adoption of climbing beans, admittedly, one of the most successful agricultural innovations in the recent times.

AGRA’s Program for Africa Seed Systems (PASS) invested in the development and release of better yielding crop varieties and availing the seed of the varieties through multiple partnerships across Africa. The aim was to produce surplus food and attain better livelihoods among smallholders. AGRA has worked in Rwanda since 2006. The conference provided a platform for close to 150 plant breeders, private seed companies, farmers and policy makers in Rwanda, across the continent and beyond.

Related:
23 January 2015. SciDev. A public-private partnership initiative has been launched to develop precooked beans to improve nutrition, raise incomes and create employment. The project aims to increase the production and supply of beans suitable for precooked processing, giving farmers access to new, sustainable markets and enabling them to increase their incomes. The initiative was launched during a workshop in Kenya last year (25-28 November) that brought together researchers, farmers, traders and manufacturers to develop high quality locally processed precooked bean products.

The US$2.5 million, three-year project is through Cultivate Africa’s Future Fund, which was set up by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR). The project is led by the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) and NARO in partnership with the International Center for Tropical Agriculture in Kenya.

Jemimah Njuki, a senior programme officer, IDRC, commends the involvement of private partners at an

early stage in the project, saying beans are an important crop for food and nutrition security.

“These will open [up] markets for a crop that is important for women and children,” Njuki notes, adding that the initiative will empower women and children, and improve livelihoods.

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