KENYA – The cultivation of in-demand, quickly maturing, disease-resistant, and highly productive zinc and iron-rich bean cultivars is being encouraged among Kenyan farmers.

These beans, which were made widely available last year, are popular with both farmers and consumers.

Unlike the customary 80-120 days, they mature in just 60 days, yield over three tons per acre compared to earlier varieties’, are pest and disease resistant and are fast-growing.

They are also renowned for being adept at utilizing moisture.

Consumers say they have excellent flavor, cook in half the time of conventional beans, and have less flatulence. They therefore command a higher price in the market.

These biofortified beans include Kenya Madini and Kenya Cheupe, which were produced by the University of Nairobi, Nyota (available through KALRO Katumani), Angaza, and Faida, all of which were created by the Center for International Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).

According to Dr. Beatrice Kiage of the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), these beans are cheap to produce and highly adaptable which could make them handy in Kenya’s fight against ‘hidden hunger.

“About 26 per cent of Kenya’s population is stunted. This affects both physical and mental development in children. It’s been shown that the IQ levels of malnourished kids are 11 per cent lower than average and they earn 22 per cent less income as adults compared to their properly nourished counterparts.

“We cannot properly develop as a country until we remedy this. This can be done through the consumption of beans that are high in iron and zinc,” she said.

Additionally, iron deficiency is the main cause of anemia, which affects up to 43% of children under the age of five in Kenya and 40% of pregnant women.

While zinc aids in the production of testosterone, iron and zinc are also essential for a child’s cognitive development. Erectile dysfunction may be linked to low zinc levels, reports Farm Biz.

Compared to biofortified maize meal, the biofortified beans are implied to have five times more iron and zinc.

FANRPAN under the ZironPulse Project is holding farmer training field days to guide farmers on the emergent challenges in bean production.

“The main challenge facing most farmers is climate change. Previously farmers used to grow high-altitude crops but have been forced to scale down to dryland crops.

“Lowland pests such as aphids and whiteflies have also invaded Kenya’s highlands as have diseases such as blight because of the high diurnal temperature ranges within our zone,” said Kieni East sub-county agricultural officer Caroline Mwenze.

Kenya produces 6,000 Mt of beans annually, ranking second in Africa behind Rwanda, but there is still a 1,000 Mt supply gap. Traditional varieties like Rosecoco, Wairimu, and Chelalang make up the majority of this.

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