Beans are one of the most important crops in Rwanda with approximately 62 percent of One Acre Fund farmers growing climbing beans in 2014, and 49 percent grew bush beans, with a total average of 0.1 hectares under beans for those who cultivated.
In Rwanda, smallholder farmers are testing ways to transition from subsistence-oriented approaches to more market-based production. A pilot has demonstrated potential to significantly increase their production, as well as profits.
Presently beans, With a per capita consumption of more than 150g per person per day, beans are the most consumed and important source of protein and essential micro-nutrients in Rwanda.
With Rwanda’s Eastern Province prone to climate risks for bean production due to long dry spells, increasing temperatures, and erratic rainfall that lead to frequent crop failure and food shortages, the
Alliance of Biodiversity International and CIAT, in collaboration with Global Affairs Canada, has been at forefront in educating farmers and sensitizing the masses through training for better access and use climate information services to manage their farms.
In addition to climate information, trainees also receive new climate-smart, high-iron bean varieties to plant.
Several past trainees from the Eastern Province, who attended a five-day training, were taught about historic rainfall trends, weather forecasting, and how to make decisions based on weather forecasts and agricultural advisories. They also learned new practices to conserve and efficiently use rainwater on their farms.
One of the trainees Identified as Shakira and who spoke to the media confessed that, Before the training, she used to broadcast bean seed in the field, but afterward, she decided to plant the new climate-smart, higher iron bean variety in rows, observe the recommended spacing, and retain moisture in my fields by tied-ridging and mulching. The results were heartwarming.
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“The first year, I harvested 200 kilos of beans, which is almost 10 times my previous harvest of 25 kilos!”
After Keenly following climate information, Shakira says that she invested the extra funds from her sales to rent additional land where she did bean and maize rotation and intercropping. She has not looked back. Since then, she has harvested 300 kg of beans and eight (8) sacks of maize (almost 1 ton) every season.
“My life has changed for good,” she said, beaming with joy.
According to Shakira before they were trained on the better farming methods, the quantity of beans that Shakira harvested was not enough to feed her family.
“We would go for two weeks without eating beans because we could not afford to buy them.” She explained. But now it’s a thing of past as Shakira produces enough beans to sell some at a profit, save enough seed for the subsequent season, and still feed her family nutritious beans all year.
“Previously my three-year-old boy was malnourished, which the village health personnel brought to my attention, but now she is healthy,” she stated proudly.
Previously the family could not afford to access healthcare, but with the additional income from bean sales, they can now afford community health insurance. With the cumulative income from selling beans for three consecutive seasons, the family has also been able to expand and renovate their house, including the addition of glass windows.
So far Shakira after attending the training and putting what was taught into practice, her Neighbors have been stimulated by the increasing yields from her bean farms curious to learn more about Shakira’s farming improvements and she says she is eager to pass on her knowledge.
So far, she has trained 65 cooperative members: “When I receive climate information, I now share it with my neighbors so they can make the right decisions for their farms.” All these changes have brought Shakira enhanced self-esteem. “I used to avoid attending meetings because I felt I did not have appropriate clothes, but now, I feel proud of myself”, says Shakira.