The business of quick-cook beans

The business of quick-cook beans

When it comes to transforming agriculture in Africa, the need to join forces with the private sector has surfaced again and again in recent times, notably at the Africa Green Revolution Forum in Nairobi last month.

Transforming farming, and the business of agriculture, needs to be exactly that: a business.

And achieving that, as noted by Simon Carter, Regional Director of the International Development Research Centre, will require partnerships. “Partnerships are at the center of what we do,” he said, during the Cultivate Africa’s Future (CultiAf) side event, titled: “Science and Innovation to Transform African Agriculture.”

It will also require innovation, said Lindiwe Sibanda, CEO of the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network, FANRPAN. “Innovation is generating technologies that farmers are willing to pay for, she added, noting that partnering with the private ensures that better farming technologies – like improved bean varieties – get to farmers.

A lasting partnership

The curious case of the pre-cooked bean is a case brought about by partnerships between researchers at CIAT, the Pan-Africa Bean Research Alliance, the National Agricultural Research Organization in Uganda, the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) and the Kenyan company Lasting Solution Ltd.

Joab Ouma, director of Lasting Solutions, says this partnership is poised to add value to the most traded commodity in Africa: beans.

First, beans that cook faster than others – in just one hour rather than around three – have been carefully screened by researchers and are ready for the private sector to use, having already been selected, and tested among farmers who are already growing them on a larger scale, to check that they grow well in local conditions.

“During our field trials, we have already tried and tested these varieties with farmers – they are very promising,” said David Karanja, National Coordinator of Legumes at KALRO. The partnership guarantees farmers an income from continuous production – and Lasting Solutions a supply of the quick-cooking beans.

The beans are cooked and processed into two products: quick-to-cook processed beans which take less than 15 minutes for consumers to prepare; and ready-to-eat snacks, which save consumers energy and money, and especially for women, they save labor.

Looking forward: a new market for beans

Once Lasting Solutions has fully completed work on its factory infrastructure, the pre-cooked bean products will be on sale to consumers as highly nutritious snacks, available at a reasonable cost.

The lasting partnerships can yield better results for both farmers and consumers. When researchers and the private sector come together, these partnerships can deliver more powerful solutions.

The side event highlighting this case study was convened by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) & The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa at the AGRF.

The CultiAf project ‘Precooked beans for food, nutrition, and income in Kenya and Uganda’ was showcased with precooked bean products – results from the research on the screening and selection process of the beans are ongoing.

Call to action:

  • Quick cook beans could benefit farmers and consumers in many parts of the bean-producing world, especially other countries in Africa, and in Latin America. By taking the approach to these new places, more people will benefit from exciting, nutritious foods that can help improve the lives of farmers, and the health of consumers.
  • This approach can be used with different crops, or to make new products with the same crop.