Beans Research - Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT

The bean has been part of the diet for millions of people worldwide for decades. It is a source of nutrition as much as it is a source of livelihood for many. In 1996, an international network of bean researchers was established. It consisted of 31 member countries and, more than 350 partners from private sector service providers, producer and civil society organizations, and policy makers. Since then, our research on beans has provided solutions to challenges faced by researchers and farmers globally and the millions of consumers.

Importance of Bean Crop Research

Common beans (Phaseolus vulgaris. L) are an important legume consumed by people of all income categories. Their demand is growing as consumers are increasingly shifting to plant based diets. They are consumed as fresh foliar vegetables, as wholesome fresh green pods, fresh ripe seeds, or dry grains.


History of Bean Crop Research at the Alliance 

The Bean Program was established in 1973 in the earliest days of the CGIAR system, soon after CIAT was established as part of an eco-regional focus on Latin America.  Early efforts in bean improvement focused on disease and pest resistance, and nitrogen fixation, as components that were compatible with resource-poor smallholder farmers.


Our Research Approach

The Alliance Bean program functions within the CGIAR consortium of international research centers. The Alliance maintains collaboration with national research institutions in Latin America and Africa and facilitates the Pan Africa Bean Research Alliance (PABRA), a network of more than 650 partners across 31 countries. With our partners, CIAT develops improved beans that show resilience under harsh growing conditions that are worsening because of climate change.


Where We Work

In Latin America we cooperate actively with nine countries: Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Peru. In Africa, the Bean Program functions within a consortium called the Pan Africa Bean Research Alliance (PABRA) that works in 31 countries in East, Southern, Central and West Africa, and in a range of sites that are close to our breeding programs in Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi and Benin.

Thematic Research Areas

Interspecific hybridization

We are introducing genes from other species for several important traits: drought, high iron, and low soil P. Interspecific crosses offer other valuable traits including high yield and uniform maturity, upright plant habit with productive branches, and insect resistance.

Addressing malnutrition

Common bean was one of the first crops to be included in the HarvestPlus program in 1994, increasing the levels of micronutrient content that can have a measurable impact on human nutrition and health, that meet the agronomic needs of farmers, and that are acceptable to consumers.

Gender in the bean value chain

Common beans are a woman’s crop, with more than 70% of women across Africa, involved in its production, value addition and marketing. Due to limited access to resources, time, markets, information, gender-friendly technology and finance, farmers, especially women and youths, have not been able to meet their potential.

Monitoring and Evaluation

To provide better beans, a continual review of progress and performance against annual targets is necessary to provide not only a real-time situation on bean research and development work from the 350+ partners but also to make improvements where needed and show accountability for the work that our partners and we do to provide better beans for Africa.

Partnership and Outreach

The bean program is funded through generous donations from institutions, and we gratefully acknowledge their commitment and contributions. 

The funding goes directly to facilitate the operations of the alliance, its three regional bean research networks, and research and development projects within PABRA. 

National government investment 

The national governments who are member countries contribute substantial investments in their national agricultural programs, and thus, make a considerable contribution to bean research, which is shared across the network. In many of these countries, the amount of government funding has grown exponentially over the years with the success of PABRA. 

Project-related support 

PABRA also receives project-specific support from some of our development partners, which is related to thematic areas, such as breeding or market development, or targets one or more countries or specific regions.

The bean program gratefully acknowledges the contributions of donors and partners in particular: 

For strongly contributing to the PABRA agenda, we also express great gratitude to: 


A big thank you goes to PABRA members and their countries, bean farmers, and other value chain actors who tirelessly work to invest in and upgrade bean value chains and continuously contribute to the research agenda. Finally, we would like to acknowledge the great contributions of the subregion. 


• Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA) 

• Centre for Coordination of Agricultural Research and Development for Southern Africa (CCARDESA) 

• West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF/WECARD) 

• Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA)


Learn a little more about our work on beans through these videos.

Come along to the bean creche in Burundi where mothers take turns to care for the children as they educate each other about child nutrition. The children are also learning in the process gaining both intellectual and health food.

Jean Gatabazi, is a bean farmer and a seed entrepreneur in Burundi. He is working hard to ensure his bean seed business is bringing in income and attracting other investment.

Curious about bean harvests? Get to know the steps on how to prevent and manage post-harvest loss for beans.

Mr. Bean is an easy to use R-Shiny web-app that simplifies the analysis of large-scale plant breeding experimental analysis by using the power and versatility of Linear Mixed Models (LMM).

MrBean on Github

NDSU Big Data Pipeline

Video and music by Matthew Seefeldt

Meet The Team

Talk To Us

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