Bean Industry in AfricaThe 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. 

Concluding Remarks

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
Photo: Wikimedia

Food Security in AfricaFood security in Africa is a serious issue caused by many different factors. Poverty is certainly a pressing one, but factors like extreme weather, disease outbreaks, political or market instability and conflict also have significant impacts. Often, these things play off of each other — yet poverty is nearly always a central figure. The global poor are significantly more likely to lose secure access to food in the face of other coinciding circumstances. That is why there are a number of initiatives that respond to food crises in impoverished places.

Agriculture Food Insecurity and Africa

In Africa, drought spreads across much of the continent, COVID-19 continuously threatens the economies of many countries and 281 million people are food insecure. In fact, 55 million African children under the age of five are considered severely malnourished. Yet, agricultural development to foster food security is consistently a small portion of national investments, as 48 out of 54 African governments spend only about 3.8% of their budgets on agriculture. Without access to nutritious food to eat every day, many Africans are looking for ways to make the agricultural systems more efficient and resilient. In a 2022 Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) conference, representatives from more than 50 African countries came together to discuss regional agricultural systems and how they might be improved. Ultimately, it was decided that there are a number of factors that play into the development of agriculture in Africa — such as digitalization, education, infrastructure and financing. Agricultural development, through whatever form it takes, must be a priority in the future if food insecurity can ever be eradicated. 


A number of programs support this move toward continent-wide food security in Africa. The Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) is one initiative that looks to reduce poverty and foster food security in Africa through agricultural development. It is a continent-wide program led by a number of African countries. It has four primary goals: Sustainably manage land and water control systems, improve rural infrastructure and trade, increase food supply and improve agricultural development. Participating governments allocate around 10% — or more — of national budgets to agricultural and rural development. As a result, they have achieved agricultural growth rates of 6% per annum.


The Food Systems Resilience Program for Eastern and Southern Africa (FSRP) is an impressive new project to increase food security in Africa. As of 2022, the World Bank Group approved $2.3 billion of funding to make it possible. With a focus on food crisis response strategies, the FSRP works to strengthen warning systems, increase emergency support, supply food reserves and create trade measures. It also increases the resilience of food systems — meaning they rely on the production of farming to provide for food-insecure places. This is done through the support of agricultural programs such as the Centre for Coordination of Agricultural Research and Development for Southern Africa (CCARDESA). Thus, the FSRP can strengthen agricultural resilience and allow people to sustainably live and eat. 

Beyond Food Security in Africa

Agricultural development surely combats food insecurity, but its positive impacts go beyond that. Agriculture is the backbone of many African economies — crops, livestock, fisheries and more provide 80% of the population with jobs, contribute 43% to the continent’s GDP and account for 70% of export earnings. Thus, initiatives such as the FSRP are more than just food-based programs. They fight poverty itself.

– Char Nieberding
Photo: Unsplash

Food Security in AfricaAfrica’s total population is expected to double by 2050, reaching 2.5 billion people. However, the continent already struggles to feed its current population today, spending $35 billion yearly on importing food. If food security in Africa continues its exponential reliance on other countries, the continent will need to spend a projected $110 billion by 2025 on food imports.

Africa has tremendous potential to produce its own food rather than relying on imports. The continent holds 65 percent of the world’s arable land, meaning Africa could be feeding over nine billion by 2050 if all of its land resources are utilized.

In sub-Saharan Africa, 26 percent of people over the age of 15—153 million people–suffer from severe food insecurity, which is the highest rate in the world. Lack of nutrition is also a large issue, resulting in growth stunting and low birth weight as well as obesity and ailments such as vitamin A deficiencies and anemia. Malnutrition contributes to nearly half of all deaths in children under five years old.

In order to fight hunger in Africa, the African Orphan Crops Consortium (AOCC) is using a DNA sequencing machine to create a new generation of African super plants. The AOCC hopes to use cross-breeding on 101 of Africa’s traditional plants to create more nutritious, adaptable and fruitful crops. The effort’s goal is to provide food security in Africa as well as reduce stunting and other effects of poor nutrition.

The AOCC collects the genome sequences of important endemic plants. Scientists then re-sequence the plants, resulting in more nutritious, productive and robust varieties. Then, they make the seeds and information available to farmers and the public domain, advocating for their use to improve crop diversity.

The association has partnered with the University of California, Davis in organizing the African Plant Breeding Academy. The academy trains 250 of Africa’s best plant breeders in new and advanced theories and technologies for plant breeding, preparing them to perform their own sustainable research and crossbreeding of African crops. By utilizing its crops and land to their fullest potentials, strengthening food security in Africa will be possible.

Hannah Kaiser

Photo: Google

The UN and other aid organizations are working to address food security in the world’s poorest countries. According to the UN Development Program’s (UNDP) African Human Development Report, food security is key to improving the lives of many of the world’s poorest people.

At the heart of eradicating extreme poverty is addressing the widespread hunger and malnutrition that kills hundreds of children every day. Food production is a determining factor in the achievement of other human development goals such as education and health care. Without adequate nutrition, people lack energy to pursue economic activities.

A productive approach to addressing food security is more complex than simply growing more food. The chief economist for the UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa, Pedro Conceicao, argued that economic growth does not necessarily reduce poverty and food insecurity. This suggests that accessibility, empowerment, and purchasing power drive change, and that a strategic, interdisciplinary approach is necessary to address food security. The Report focused on four ways to address food security:

  • Food production: investments in agricultural research, infrastructure, and inputs will increase food production. This will improve food security, especially for agricultural communities.
  • Adequate nutrition: improving food security does not necessarily improve nutrition. Efforts to alleviate malnutrition should be coordinated with developments in sanitation, clean water, and health services.
  • Resilience: building resilience is key to decreasing the need for emergency aid. Systems such as crop insurance and employment guarantees strengthen communities and reduce vulnerability.
  • Empowerment: gender equality, access to good land, technology, and information on good agricultural practices are necessary for achieving food security.

Sustainable progress does not happen overnight. As the Millennium Development Goals demonstrate, long-term coordinated efforts in multiple sectors are needed to improve food security. In order to achieve sustainable rather than short-term food security, development organizations also need to address environmental conservation, natural resource management, and the often opposing influences of big agribusiness and local ecology.

– Kat Henrichs

Source: IRIN News
Photo: Security and Sustainability Forum