The Pan-African Bean Research Alliance (PABRA) has researched and developed 650 new bean varieties that could combat food insecurity in Africa. PABRA’s development is an effort to retain bean crops as climate change has threatened the crop. The alliance won the $100,000 African Food Prize for its commitment to improving food security through the bean industry in Africa.
What is PABRA?
The Pan-African Bean Research Alliance is based in Nairobi, Kenya. The alliance works with members in 30 countries to provide better beans and economic growth within those countries. They believe that their research on beans can:
- Reduce food insecurity in Africa
- Provide stable income for farmers
- Improve the health of Africans
- Improve soil fertility
Food Insecurity in Africa
Sub-Saharan Africa faces an alarming food crisis, with around 146 million people food insecure. The causes of food insecurity in Africa include extreme weather and armed conflict. Food insecurity has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 Pandemic and the war in Ukraine, which reduced essential food imports to African countries.
Beans are a popular food item across Africa, with approximately 300 million people eating beans. Researchers Ulrike Rippke and Julian Ramirez-Villegas 2016 studied when and where bean farming will become unviable in Africa. They found that if action is not taken, 60% of the land in sub-Saharan Africa will be unviable for bean farming by the end of the 21st century.
Better And Diverse Bean Varieties
PABRA’s efforts to reduce food insecurity in Africa have led to the creation of 650 new bean varieties. These new bean varieties are more resilient and better acclimated to the extreme wet and dry seasons that Sub-Saharan Africa is facing. PABRA’s beans use less water than other beans.
The newly developed beans also double productivity. The director of PABRA says that in Ethiopia, there is a shorter harvest time for PABRA’s beans. Therefore, you can harvest the beans and sell them before other crops. Additionally, the beans provide diversity and a more comprehensive range of crops that can be grown by farmers. Through diversity and high resilience, farms can better withstand the shock in the cropping system.
Economic Benefits Of Better Bean Crops
Bean crops are a valuable income source for at least 37 million farmers across the African continent. PABRA reports that there has been a 30% income increase in more than 5 million households due to their beans. From 2003 to 2021, with PABRA’s improved bean varieties, farmers in Zimbabwe saw $500–$800 income gains per hectare under rain conditions and $1,000 per hectare for irrigated plots. For further poverty reduction, PABRA found that households using their beans are 6% more likely to be food secure. The likelihood of being poor also decreased by 6%, according to PABRA’s 2022 report.
The Pan-African Bean Research Alliance’s efforts towards bean development are one of the many ongoing projects to reduce food insecurity in Africa. The diverse bean varieties provide new sources of income and food for consumption to approximately 30 countries and millions of people.
– Komalpreet Kaur