Small strides, big challengesIn 10 years, Capitoline and her small team of researchers have made much progress. The ‘bean team’ is the strongest of all ISABU crop research departments. Through regional germplasm exchange and capacity building from PABRA, ISABU has released 17 improved varieties that are high yielding, early maturing, highly marketable and more nutritious. To ensure these new varieties reach farmers, researchers are building partnerships with farmers, small seed entrepreneurs and NGOs to multiply quality seed. They have also trained farmers and extension service providers in better crop management practices, communities in nutrition and entrepreneurial women in bean processing, such as bean flour production. But there are many challenges that need to be addressed. The majority of farmers are struggling to access quality seed and knowledge of improved agronomic practices. Most can’t afford to invest in inputs to increase their yields or storage facilities to prevent post-harvest loss to pests. All of which put them at the mercy of opportunistic traders, who buy grain at low prices after harvest when farmers need cash, and sell it back at a higher price when they need food. Poor bean productivity in Burundi has led to trade opportunities for neighbouring farmers in Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda, whose imported beans make up the shortfall between production and demand. Burundians eat an estimated 395,000 tons a year, yet national production only meets two thirds of the demand.
“This situation is not positive,” says Capitoline. “Burundians eat beans at every meal but some families can only afford a small quantity which is not enough for the whole household. The situation has to change.”
Government supportEntrepreneur Christelle Ndayishimiye discusses her bean-based composite flour with participants. SMalyon/CIAT The partnership has captured the support of Burundi’s new Minister of Agriculture, Dr Deo Guide Rurema, who opened the planning workshop. A scientist himself, and former food security and nutrition advisor to the government, Rurema has put the participation of farmers in research as central to his drive to intensify agricultural production and to improve post harvest management. Speaking at the event, he said:
“This fits in with the objectives of national food security policy that prioritises the organisation and development of the seed sector in Burundi to increase agricultural production and thus improve the living conditions of the population and rural households in particular.”L-r: Dr Deo Guide Rurema, Minister of Agriculture & Livestock, Burundi, and Dr Robin Buruchara, Africa Regional Director, CIAT. SMalyon/CIAT