New CultiAF project to bring affordable pre-cooked beans to east African markets

Farmer drying beans. Photo credit: Mandy Gyles, ACIAR
Friday, 28 November 2014

One of the brand new CultiAF projects is already making news. News From Africa covered the Kenyan launch of a new partnership to develop high quality locally processed pre-cooked bean products to raise incomes for smallholder farmers, improve nutrition and create job opportunities in Kenya and Uganda.

The USD $2.5 million project is led by Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) and Uganda’s National Research Organization (NARO). It brings together researchers, farmers and manufacturers to develop products that will offer an alternative to canned and chilled beans currently available in the market but are unaffordable to a majority of the consumers.

The project will test models for increasing the production and supply of bean varieties suitable for processing into pre-cooked beans, assess demand, test promotion mechanisms and promote consumption of precooked beans for different consumer groups.

The project aims to improve food and nutrition security in east Africa. Kenya has significant malnutrition challenges. Approximately 5 percent of children under five are wasted, and another 16 percent are underweight.

“The common bean is a major staple food in eastern and southern Africa where it is recognised as the second most important source of human dietary protein and third most important source of calories among all agricultural commodities produced in the region,” said Eliud Kireger, Director General of KALRO.

The project is using nutritious, better tasting, and attractive colour beans varieties developed by International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).

“What we now want to do is to add value to these varieties by processing so as to take less time to cook and fit into the lifestyle of both the increasing urban and peri-urban populations” said Jean Claude Rubyogo, a seed system specialist at CIAT.

Bean production in the region does not meet current demand. Kenya, for example produces only 427996 metric tonnes of dry beans per year and imports approximately 443000 metric tonnes from the East African region, almost a third of this from Uganda.

There is growing demand for high value food commodities opening up new opportunities for farmers. Developing precooked bean products will support farmers to plug into new markets that have a strong potential to delver higher returns for the farmers.

A number of farmers groups and processing farms will provide expertise in processing and support in the pre-cooked bean products value chain.

Cultivate Africa’s Future Fund (CultiAF) is our partnership with Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC). We will be sharing news about the other projects launched this month in the coming weeks.

Read the full article by Otieno Owino