The Rwandan Government has released five new iron‐rich bean varieties that could provide more iron in the diets of millions of Rwandese who eat beans every day.
Iron deficiency is widely prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa. During childhood and adolescence, it lowers resistance to disease and impairs learning capacity. Women with severe anaemia are at increased risk of dying in childbirth.
In Rwanda, the government has now released five new iron-rich bean varieties. These new iron-rich varieties were bred by the Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) using conventional breeding methods. Farmers who evaluated these beans during field trials liked them because they were high yielding and resistant to major diseases and pests.
Beans are an important part of the diet for more than 300 million people in Africa and Latin America. “Beans are the ‘meat’ and even the ‘bread’ of the Rwandan countryside, explained Lister Katsvairo, HarvestPlus Country Manager, when presenting the new bean varieties. HarvestPlus is leading a global effort to breed and disseminate staple food crops that are rich in vitamins and minerals to improve nutrition and public health.
The beans are also highly marketable due to their large seed size and their preferred colours, including red and white that are sought for in local and urban markets. Katsvairo announced that by September 2012, HarvestPlus and its partners will distribute more than 200 tons of iron-rich climbing and bush bean varieties via agro-dealers and local markets to about 75,000 farming households. Farmers will be able to grow these new beans to feed their families. They can also harvest and share seeds with others in their community, amplifying the nutritional benefits.
According to the HarvestPlus expert, more than half a million household members in Rwanda are expected to be eating iron-rich beans by the end of 2013. Besides Rwanda, the release of iron-biofortified beans is also envisaged for the Democratic Republic of Congo, with an expected spillover effect to other eastern and southern African countries like Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.