Friday, 12 May 2017

Spilling the beans on nutrition

Healthy, nutritious beans give Kenyan and Ugandan women more time with their families, thanks to an ACIAR collaboration.

Australia and Canada have invested $AUD2.6 million in a joint project ‘Precooked beans for food, nutrition and income in Kenya and Uganda’, a three-year project which ran from October 2014 to March 2017.
                                                                Photo N Palmer CIAT

Unprocessed dry beans are a traditional East African subsistence crop – and provide important protein to poor families.  Beans take many hours to cook however, while most people can’t afford the canned or frozen beans sold in the market.

‘Beans are a very high source of nutrition and protein – but they take a long time to cook,’ says Mellissa Wood, who ran the Australian International Food Security Centre.  ‘Women have to spend a long time collecting fire wood to heat them, which makes the beans expensive, from both the fuel and time perspective.  So, sadly, many times the beans don’t make it into the dinner pot.’

A third to a quarter of under-5s in Kenya and in Uganda have stunted growth, so adding protein to their diets is very important. ACIAR along with Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) have developed pre-cooked beans that women can cook in a quarter of an hour, making it easier to feed their families and spend more time with them.  They use nutritious, tasty and attractively coloured beans from the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).

Local smallholder farmers grow beans under the community production model, and the beans are then processed in a factory.  The project increases smallholder farmers’ income, improves nutrition, and creates jobs in agro-enterprises, especially for women and youth.  More than half of the 24,000 farmers, for instance, are women.

The project is part of Cultivate Africa’s Future Fund (Culti-AF), a four-year $15 million program jointly funded by ACIAR and IDRC.  Culti-AF works in ten African countries (Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe) to help local researchers address food security by improving post-harvest management, linking agriculture to nutrition, and developing sustainable water systems.

by Nick Fuller

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