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November 20, 2008

New bean varieties boost income for Ugandan farmers

by Kakaire A. Kirunda

Uganda Farmers are generating more income after the introduction of new bean varieties, according to research by the National Agricultural Research Organisation (Naro) and other partners such as the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).

“New varieties account for 67 per cent of annual household bean income; and 45 per cent of household bean consumption,” according to the research findings published in Highlights CIAT in Africa. “Poor households earned Shs40,000 ($23) from beans annually, compared to Shs60,000-70,000 per year ($34 - $40) earned by wealthy households, indicating that beans contribute more to poverty reduction given that the rich have bigger bean plots and other sources of income.”

The study authors wrote that beans are a major food and cash crop for the majority of which accounts for 7 per cent of national agricultural gross domestic product (GDP) and ranking fifth behind bananas, cassava, sweet potatoes, and maize. And concentrated mainly in the central, eastern, and western regions, bean production is entirely due to small scale farming.

Over the last 10 years, nine bush and five climbing bean varieties have been released by Naro in collaboration with CIAT and other partners.

The study examined the impact of eight improved bush bean varieties and complementary management practices which were promoted between 1994 and 1999.

In 2003, data was obtained through a survey of 529 bean farmers over two seasons in six districts, representing six major agro-ecological zones. Similarly, additional information was obtained from key informant discussions and participatory rural appraisal (PRA).

According to the study findings, “Results from a formal household survey of six districts indicate that new varieties, particularly K132 (CAL 96), K131 (MCM 5001) and NABE 2 have an average yield advantage of 37 per cent over traditional varieties under the same conditions.”

But the researchers observed that the average yield of 855 kg per hectare for new varieties is still below the potential yield of 1.5 - 2.0 tonnes per hectare under optimal farmer management.

The research further showed that the most widely adopted variety is K132 due to its high yield potential and high market demand. It was however noted that its acreage is declining due to its susceptibility to bean root rot. Findings also indicated that about half (53 per cent) of the sample households had adopted at least one new variety, while 40 percent had adopted K132.

Meanwhile, when extrapolated to national estimates, the researchers observed that the adoption of new varieties is equivalent to approximately one million households, “which represents a promising step forward in achieving the Pan Africa Bean Research Alliance goal of reaching ten million households.”

Finding that the majority of adopters are in the ‘poor’ and medium wealth categories, the researchers concluded that this was indicative of the major role played by beans in poverty alleviation.

They none-the-less noted that although this confirmed that poor households are accessing improved varieties, “benefits to the poor are limited by access to complementary resources such as land: the average bean plot for poor households is just over one third of the average plot size for rich households.”

The Monitor

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