Farmers enjoy stable financial base, thanks to pre-cooked beans project
Lucy Wairimu and her fellow small-scale farmers in Gituamba Village of Nakuru County have for years struggled with declining food production and low income.
The farmers have for long cultivated traditional beans varieties that equally has been characterised by low production and thus denied them a lot of benefits and opportunities contributing to grinding poverty among other miseries.
For years, the growers like any other ordinary farmers in any rural set up have been grappling with low production among other miseries.
But, two years ago the farmers’ economic life started changing, thanks to a new bean project fast-tracked by Kenya Agricultural Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro) and other development partners.
The research organisation introduced new high yielding, market preferred and also drought tolerant beans varieties under a project on precooked beans. Under the project the players introduced three new varieties -Nyota, Faida and Angaza.
“Our lives have changed since we adopted the new varieties. Production and incomes have increased. After every three months, our pockets are always liquid enabling us to meet our daily financial obligations,” says Wairimu.
Growing traditional varieties Wairimu explains has always realised a production of between four to five bags but the new varieties are producing up to more than 10 bags per acre.
The precooked beans project is being implemented by research organisations -Kalro, National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) and International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).
The project that is being piloted in Nakuru, Makueni and Homabay counties and Uganda is funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) funded the project.
National Coordinator in charge of green legumes at Kalro David Karanja says the project received assistance from the European Union, Kenya, Canada and Swedish Governments.
The players supported the research on development, evaluation and releasing of the new bean varieties that are endowed with high levels of iron and zinc.
The project he adds was initiated in 2014 after survey that was carried out by the national Government investigating on the nutrition level in the country. This led to government pushing for fortification of various commodities such as maize and wheat flour in order to enrich food nutrition.
The precooked beans compared to the traditional varieties when cooked take less than 15 minutes. “The Nyota, Angaza and Faida varieties were introduced to farmers in high and medium potential areas, dryland regions and cold dry high lands. Nyota a drought tolerant early maturing bean variety was availed”, said Dr Karanja.
The beans despite being highly demanded are equally attracting high prices, for example, to the upward of between Sh6,000 and Sh7,000 for a 90 kilogramme bag.
Wairimu and her fellow women started a merry go group –Ushirikiano Group in 2013 to advance their economic interests. As a group they were easily identified by Kalro over the new project.
Cecilia Njaaga, a member of the group says that she has increased production by more than 200 per cent since the project started two years ago.
“I used to produce between four and five bags of traditional varieties but currently the output has gone up to between 10 and 12 bags of 90 kg per acre. And sell the same at more than Sh7, 000 per bag compared to the old varieties of less than Sh6, 000,” she adds.
For Esther Gathoni 34, the introduction of the new bean varieties has contributed to strong financial base and thus enables her to meet financial obligations.
Rachel Njenga, an agriculture officer in Gilgil sub-County notes that the popularity of the new varieties has attracted many young people and women in farming.
“The introduction of the new beans has enhanced farming in the areas and thus contributed to poverty reduction among other miseries. More so the farmers with the support of stakeholders are able to access the markets,” she says.
According to research findings Karanja the beans unlike the traditional varieties, are sweet when cooked, contains negligible gas and are marketable.
Further, they are high yielding with a multiplication ratio of 30-60kg for every kilogramme of seed planted with good agronomic practices.
The Nyota and Angaza bean varieties are suitable for industrial processing of pre-cooked bean products thus giving new market outlets to farmers, Karanja says.
“They grow well in low to medium rainfall areas and also on a wide range of soil types that are deep, well drained and high in organic matter,” he adds.
Specifically the varieties is a boon to farmers as it matures within 60 to 70 days, yields about 6 to 10 bags of 90kgs per acre, more drought tolerant than other bean varieties and is a brilliant red mottled grain that is sweet.
Crop husbandry and harvesting
Farmers, Karanja advises should plant the new varieties during the onset of rains and if intercropped ought to be planted soon after the maize. Equally, they should plant early as part of avoiding vagaries of climate change –pests, diseases and low production.
The growers should also be weary of weeds and pests as the same contributed to output decline. Youth and women groups have benefited from the project and thus are able to contribute to the economic development in the country.
“Weeds reduce yield, it is therefore important to weed at least two times per season. The first phase of clearing should be carried out two weeks after germination and the second stage ought to be before flowering. It is not advisable to carry out weeding during flowering or when wet as this leads to flower abortion or disease spread,” he added.
After harvesting, Karanja explains, drying of the beans should be on a plastic sheet or gunny bag to keep them clean and proper drying helps to reduce the chance of mold formation.
“The advantage of the precooked bean meal compared to wet or canned beans which require refrigeration is that they can be stored for three years without any additives and not get spoilt”, he says.
Utilisation of precooked beans for food and nutrition security, Karanja explains also helps to boost environmental conservation in East Africa.
Between Kenya and Uganda, Karanja says they have been able to test 47 bean varieties to determine which would be suitable for pre-cooking.
Through the cook ability, Karanja explains that the study came up with 12 varieties four from Kenya and eight from Uganda that can be precooked.
He explains that currently two private firms, Smart Logistics from Machakos County in Kenya and Lasting Solution based in Uganda and operating in western Kenya are engaged in the processing of the precooked beans for consumption.
“The quick to cook beans takes less than 15 minutes for consumers to prepare while the ready to eat snacks especially for children are healthy as they contain 60 per cent bean,” adds Karanja.
For town dwellers and bachelors who find fuel expensive and also time consuming in preparing beans, he says the precooked bean meal will only need to be soaked in boiled water for 15 minutes and its ready for eating.
Karanja further explains that so far the studies have shown that the precooked beans do not need any refrigeration as they can be stored for three years without any additives.
He says that the government in 2012 enacted a legislation requiring all milling companies to fortify their flours though in the rural areas, the same is yet to happen.