Robin Buruchara, director of the Pan-Africa Bean Research Alliance (PABRA), is calling on the private and public sector to support bean production throughout the region.
In a just-published opinion article, Buruchara noted that the African staple is resilient, inexpensive, easy to grow and sell, highly nutritious and vitamin-rich, yet underfunded.
“Farmers know beans are a good bet to plant, because if most of their harvest fails and they can’t sell anything — at least they have some food at home,” he wrote.
As Africa faces the prospects of more “drought, longer dry seasons and shorter spells of unpredictable rainfall,” the resilient crops are more crucial than ever.
However, “the production and improvement of beans is not as high a priority in agricultural and nutritional policies as it ought to be,” Buruchara argued.
“Their nutritional benefits are not incorporated into nutrition programs; their ability to combat climate change and make farmers’ fields more resilient are not spelled out in climate policy.”
As a result, many farmers are uninformed about the full benefits of this crop. New bean varieties and agronomic packages must reach farmers and advisory services, and more research is needed to farm-scale decision making and agricultural policy, Buruchara argues.
“What remains to be seen is how the private sector and public sector can work together to make sure better beans get to more people,” he wrote.
PABRA works with national bean programs to strengthen cropping systems across 30 countries in Africa.