Rwanda: Beans for Better Nutrition and Achievement of Global Goals
Rwanda takes nutrition security seriously. In recent years, the country’s efforts to increase dietary diversification and improve livelihoods have resulted in declining percentages of children suffering from wasting, stunting and underweight. One of the most successful initiatives has focused on improving the nutritional content of beans through biofortification.
Beans are widely grown across Rwanda and are the country’s main staple food, providing households with 32% of required calories and 65% of protein. For these reasons, they have been promoted as priority crops under the government’s Crop Intensification Program (CIP), which aims to improve agricultural productivity and food security in the country.
Beans rich in iron and zinc are long-lasting, inexpensive and profitable healthy foods for people of all incomes. A series of CGIAR studies found that daily consumption of iron-rich beans helped increase iron levels in Rwandan women of childbearing age, improve physical performance, and improve memory and cognitive ability. attention in just six months.
A success story for climate adaptation and nutrition
Over the past decade, the Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Development Board (RAB) has worked with partners and invested more than $5 million to identify and develop new high-yielding bean varieties rich in iron and zinc. . Since 2010, more than 45 new varieties have been released in the country, including 18 varieties of biofortified beans.
This is also the result of a long-standing partnership with the Pan African Bean Research Alliance (PABRA), a multi-stakeholder bean research network comprising national agricultural research systems and international institutions that was established in 1996 to improve bean productivity, utilization and marketing for the rural poor and urban population.
So far, PABRA member countries have developed and released 726 marketable, climate-resistant, high-yielding bean varieties. These varieties have been made available to 37 million households in 31 African countries, including Rwanda, helping to increase food security in the region. These improved varieties are not only rich in iron and zinc, but also exhibit characteristics such as tolerance to droughts, pests, diseases and high market demand. Some of these varieties can withstand temperature increases of up to 4 degrees Celsius.
In 2018, 20% of the beans produced in Rwanda were iron-rich varieties and 15% of the population – 1.8 out of 12.4 million people – had started eating them. Farmers growing improved iron-rich varieties saw their yields increase by about 22% compared to other beans and could make an additional profit of $57 to $78 per hectare.
Through PABRA, Rwanda has become a major player in the development and dissemination of climbing beans throughout the African continent. These beans can yield up to three times more than bush beans and could satisfy both growing domestic demand and export trade.
Rampant population growth and increased urbanization will lead to a dramatic increase in food demand in Africa and globally over the next two decades. Successes in Rwanda and across Africa show that beans can help us adapt and respond to the climate crisis while continuing to eradicate hunger.
With 828 million people still going hungry in 2021, according to the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2022 report, governments, national research institutes and international organizations must act quickly to ensuring more sustainable, nutritious and affordable food is accessible to all.
Investing in increasing the production and consumption of nutritious and climate-friendly bean varieties is critically important to meet growing food demand and support farmers’ livelihoods. Creating the right market incentives for farmers to produce more bean varieties, such as including them in public markets and school meals programs, can increase the use of quality seed and bean productivity. Educating consumers, especially younger generations, about the nutritional benefits of beans can also create an internal market for beans and improve nutritional outcomes.
A major event ahead of the 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 27), the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) 2022, which takes place in Rwanda from September 5 to 9, represents a unique opportunity to start a discussion with countries, the private sector, international organizations and farmers, around beans as an innovative solution to the climate and hunger crisis, in Africa and beyond.
We hope that many of us will come out of the Summit inspired and motivated to build a global coalition to boost bean production and consumption over the next eight years. 2030 is fast approaching and most of the global development goals will not be met unless we massively increase our efforts to fight climate change and hunger. Beans are a simple yet powerful resource to get us back on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
Gerardine Mukeshimana is Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources in Rwanda. Juan-Lucas Restrepo is Global Director of Partnerships and Advocacy at CGIARand Managing Director of the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT.