Breeding beans for smallholder farmers in Eastern, Central, and Southern Africa: Constraints, achievements, and potential
Kimani, P. M
Chirwa, R. M
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Serious declines in food security and income in sub-Saharan Africa over the past two decades have resulted in widespread poverty and malnutrition, especially among resource-poor smallholders and the urban poor. The common bean is a major part of their food requirements and source of income, but there have been declines in bean productivity, attributable to a number of factors and estimated at nearly 3,000,000 t per year. In the last 16 years, the Pan-African Bean Research Alliance (PABRA) together with NARS partners, farmers, NGOs, and other stakeholders have sought to overcome these constraints by breeding highyielding, disease- and pest-resistant cultivars adapted to poor soils, with characteristics acceptable for domestic and export markets, and seed production and delivery systems for smallholder producers, among other things. A record 188 distinct varieties have been released and have contributed significantly to improvements in the livelihoods of resource-poor rural communities through increased availability of food and household income, savings in cooking time, reduced wood fuel consumption, gender equity, and empowerment of women and other vulnerable groups. Adoption rates of up to 100% indicate that accelerated dissemination and adoption of improved bean cultivars can significantly contribute to improving food security, household income, and poverty alleviation, especially for the most vulnerable groups.