From the Field Cameroon’s “Bean Sharer”

After learning about the benefits of improved bean varieties, one woman has singlehandedly taken up the challenge of distributing beans across her community.

Magdalene Atungsiri is a farmer and retired research technician with Cameroon’s Agricultural Research Institute for Development (IRAD). She has a lifelong passion for agriculture, growing cassava, taro, maize, and other vegetables for her family. In 2016, after attending an agricultural training course, she began trialing improved bean varieties developed by the Pan-Africa Bean Research Alliance (PABRA) and the Alliance.

Bred to be high-yielding, nutritious, and resistant to pests and diseases, these varieties are also favored for their taste. Farmers use nicknames like “beef” and “Maggi cube” to describe varieties so flavorful that they can be cooked without adding salt or seasoning. This is one reason why, she says, “The demand for these different varieties has been increasing, both for grains and seeds.”

In a region where beans are an essential source of protein and nutrients, Magdalene recognizes these varieties as valuable superfoods. At age 64, she has made it her mission to share these beans with as many people as possible.

Over the last several years, Magdalene has harvested 84 kgs of improved beans and distributed the seeds to 75 women in her community and an additional 125 farmers. With the goal of establishing an NGO that can bring beans to “the doorstep of the community,” she believes this approach can improve health and resilience for coming generations.

"My mission is to share these beans with my community… this way I can be sure these valuable resources are used by the farmers and the women who are the center of food production here in Cameroon."

Information for this story was kindly provided by Siri Bella Ngoh, Socio-economist/Gender specialist, Cameroon’s Agricultural Research Institute for Development (IRAD).