Rwanda Releases Iron-Rich Beans to Improve Public Health for Millions

Kigali, Rwanda / Washington D.C, June 20, 2012: The Rwanda Government today announced the release of five new iron‐rich bean varieties that could provide more iron in the diets of millions of Rwandese who eat beans every day.

Iron deficiency is widely prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa. During childhood and adolescence, it lowers resistance to disease and impairs learning capacity. It reduces the ability of adults for physical labor. Severe anemia increases the risk of women dying in childbirth.

In Rwanda, anemia, which is used as an indicator of iron deficiency, afflicts almost one out of five non-pregnant women and 40% of children under‐five in Rwanda. Children and women will be the main beneficiaries of these new bean varieties, which could provide up to 30% of their daily iron needs.

“Beans are the ‘meat’ and even the ‘bread’ of the Rwandan countryside. A meal without beans in Rwanda is like a meal without food.” explains Lister Katsvairo, HarvestPlus Country Manager.

The new iron-rich bean varieties were bred by the Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) using conventional breeding methods. Farmers who evaluated these beans during field trials liked them because they were high yielding and resistant to major diseases and pests. The beans are also highly marketable due to their large seed size and their preferred colors, including red and white that are sought for in local and urban markets. “Demand for these varieties has already started, and we have produced enough seed quantities to sell to farmers at an affordable price for the next cropping season.” said Katsvairo.

By September, HarvestPlus and its partners will distribute more than 200 tons of iron-rich climbing and bush bean varieties via agrodealers and local markets to about 75,000 farming households. Farmers will be able to grow these new beans to feed their families. They can also harvest and share seeds with others in their community amplifying the nutritional benefits. By the end of 2013, more than half a million household members are expected to be eating iron-rich beans.

This development and delivery of iron-rich beans is being funded by HarvestPlus. Partners include RAB, CIAT, other Rwanda Government agencies and local partners.

HarvestPlus (www.harvestplus.org) leads a global effort to breed and disseminate staple food crops that are rich in vitamins and minerals to improve nutrition and public health. Using a process called biofortification, higher amounts of vitamins and minerals are directly bred into foods such as bean, cassava, sweet potato, rice, maize, pearl millet, and wheat. HarvestPlus is part of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Improved Nutrition and Health. It is coordinated by CIAT and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

Contact Information: 

Lister Katsvairo, Rwanda Country Manager, HarvestPlus, listerkatsvairo@yahoo.com, Tel: + 250 784 057 448

Louis Butare, HarvestPlus Rwanda Bean Project Leader, RAB, butare.lewis@gmail.com, Tel: + 250 788 523 075

Yassir Islam, Communications Head, HarvestPlus, y.islam@cgiar.org, Tel: +1 202 862-5602