Press and News Empowering Nutrition with Biofortified Beans: The Alliance and PABRA Engage with UEA Students on Pulses Day

Empowering Nutrition with Biofortified Beans CIAT PABRA Engage with UEA Students on Pulses Day - Alliance Bioversity International - CIAT

In celebration of World Pulses Day (Feb 10th, 2024), students at the Université Evangélique en Afrique (UEA) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, recently welcomed representatives from the Pan-Africa Bean Research Alliance (PABRA) and the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT (The Alliance). The event featured engaging discussions led by Prof Rodrigue Ayagirwe (Vice Chancellor Academic Affairs), Prof Serge Ndjadi (Dean of the Faculty), Prof Caroline Imani (Deputy Dean of the Faculty), as well as researchers and lecturers at the University, and representatives of farmer group associations, public services and students. The discussion focused on the pivotal role of beans in nutrition for both soil and human beings. 

By: Napoleon Kajunju, Rachel Kayange, and edited by Edith Mutui  

Empowering Nutrition with Biofortified Beans CIAT/PABRA Engage with UEA Students on Pulses Day - Alliance Bioversity International - CIAT - Image 1

The ‘Beans for women empowerment (B4WE)' project - financed by the Global Affairs Canada (GAC) under the Alliance and PABRA - was represented by Napoleon Kajunju (Nutrition Specialist) and Rachel Kayange (Communications Intern) in a dynamic session with 400 students. The occasion was marked by thoughtful conversations, aligning with the essence of World Pulses Day and the importance of promoting healthier dietary choices. As a panelist, Napoleon Kajunju delved into the importance of beans for nutrition, highlighting the role of biofortified beans (championed by PABRA) in enhancing the well-being of Congolese society. These beans are enriched with essential nutrients such as iron and zinc, addressing nutritional deficiencies that are especially important for vulnerable populations such as pregnant women, women of reproductive age, and children.

Empowering Nutrition with Biofortified Beans: The Alliance/PABRA Engage with UEA Students on Pulses Day - Alliance Bioversity International - CIAT

PABRA's intervention resonated well with the audience, leading to an influx of positive questions and comments from the attendees. The students displayed genuine interest and enthusiasm for how biofortified beans can be a game-changer in addressing nutritional challenges. Some of the questions raised by the students included cooking time, flatulence provoked by certain types of beans, social beliefs about beans (blindness, risk of cancer, meals of the poor), and value-added beans-based products. 

On the issue of cooking time, Kajunju explained that PABRA has developed biofortified bean varieties with a shorter cooking time, and that more research is ongoing to further reduce cooking duration to save time and energy. This solution is expected to enhance further consumption of beans around the world. Regarding the flatulence caused by certain types of beans, Kajunju informed the audience that PABRA has also considered that specific issue in terms of developing bean varieties with no or less flatulence effect but also by developing recipes that prevent digestive problems related to beans. As such, Kajunju also shared a wealth of tips with the UEA students to mitigate or eliminate flatulence caused by beans. These tips included soaking beans in warm water, incorporating ‘kombu’ for its digestive enzymes, adding a pinch of baking soda for alkalization, gradual and complete cooking to ensure thorough digestion, spicing up with herbs, and practicing mindful chewing for enhanced digestibility. 

Empowering Nutrition with Biofortified Beans - The Alliance /PABRA Engage with UEA Students on Pulses Day - Image 3

On the question related to social beliefs about beans, Kajunju indicated that the previously-mentioned B4WE project is in its implementation phase in Eastern DRC, and that one of its biggest activities is Social Behavior Communication Change to enhance bean consumption. The activity is aimed at changing the narrative about beans in the region and informing the public about their nutritional benefits. He stressed that culturally beans play an important role in food and nutrition security, but very little is known about beans in terms of their virtues. He explained that recent studies have shown, for example, that beans can help prevent certain forms of cancer, contribute to weight loss management, feed people with diabetes, etc. He encouraged more similar conferences where knowledge and experiences can be shared to inform the public. Regarding value-added beans-based products, Kajunju challenged the students to be innovative and develop recipes and products that suit the Congolese market and consumers. 

The collaboration between PABRA, the Alliance of Bioversity International/CIAT and UEA students showcased the collective commitment to advancing nutritional knowledge. World Pulses Day served as a catalyst for meaningful conversations, paving the way for continued efforts in promoting biofortified beans and ensuring a healthier future for communities across the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Through such engagements, the journey towards improved nutrition gains momentum, one insightful discussion at a time.