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PARTNERSHIPS FOR ENHANCED ENGAGEMENT IN RESEARCH (PEER)
Cycle 8 (2019 Deadline)


Increased availability of fast cooking yellow dry beans rich in bioavailable iron to Zambia consumers and farmers

PI: Kelvin Kamfwa (kelvinkamfwa@gmail.com), University of Zambia
U.S. Partner: Karen Cichy, USDA/ Agricultural Research Service
Project Dates: December 2019 - November 2020

Project Overview:
 
Common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) is a major source of protein and iron. Iron deficiency is widespread in Zambia, especially among children and pregnant women, and consumption of iron-rich beans could mitigate iron deficiency. Faster cooking beans could mitigate the negative climate change effects on the environment by reducing the consumption of charcoal or firewood and reduce health impacts from prolonged breathing of emissions from long indoor cooking processes. Unfortunately, however, adoption of new bean varieties in Zambia remain low. Participatory Variety Selection (PVS), defined as the engagement of farmers in the selection of crop varieties, is one possible way of enhancing adoption of new varieties. Yellow beans are grown and consumed in Zambia, but for several reasons they are not as widely consumed as the purple “kabulangeti” beans. First, people are generally unaware of the nutritional superiority of yellow beans over purple beans or the fact that yellow beans cook faster than purple beans. Second, farmers tens to lack access to improved and higher yielding yellow bean varieties. In their prior research, the PI and his team have shown a correlation between cooking time and iron bioavailability such that fast cooking beans have higher. With consumers in Zambia valuing foods with a shorter cooking time, the researchers believe they have identified a good opportunity to promote the choice of yellow beans and mitigate iron deficiency in Zambia.

The two main goals of the project are (1) to improve the diets of Zambians through increased availability of fast cooking yellow beans rich in bioavailable iron and (2) to improve the profitability of beans for Zambian farmers by deploying new high-yielding varieties with traits that appeal to farmers and consumers. As part of their work, the researchers will provide high-yielding, fast-cooking, and high iron bioavailable yellow dry bean breeding lines to farmers in Zambia, using seed stock to be provided by the University of Zambia Bean Breeding Program and the breeding program of U.S. partner Dr. Karen Cichy. The team will then work with the farmers through the PVS process to help them select appropriate seed stocks for their local conditions. On-farm field trials will be carried out, after which the researchers will evaluate the adoption potential of the new yellow dry bean breeding lines. In parallel, the PEER team will also carry out on-farm cooking trials to test the cooking times of the various types of beans in real-life conditions (using charcoal and firewood for cooking instead of electric cookers). Farmers will be asked to rank the beans based on cooking time and other traits of as gravy quality, aroma, and flavor. Finally, to help create awareness of the benefits and opportunities associated with yellow beans, the PEER team will organize on-farm field days, where farmers, consumers, and representatives of institutions where bean consumption is especially high, such as hospitals, boarding schools, and prisons, will be invited to sample the beans. Government and traditional leaders will also be invited, as they will play important roles in promoting production and consumption of yellow beans.

This project is well aligned with previous and current USAID efforts in Zambia aimed at supporting promoting prudent management of natural resources and more efficient agricultural practices, including promotion of more diversification from maize to legumes. Access to improved higher-yielding yellow bean varieties could result in increased household food security and incomes, especially in the rural bean-growing areas of Zambia, where poverty levels are high. Availability of higher yielding common bean varieties could encourage more farmers to diversify into common bean production.


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