“Beans are tools for systemic change – alleviating poverty, fighting malnutrition, increasing gender equality, and building a more nutritious and resilient food system for Africa.”
Beans are highly nutritious, easy to grow, and good for soil health, making them a staple crop for smallholder farmers across the world. Beans provide essential dietary protein for more than 300 million people in sub-Saharan Africa.
In 1996, CGIAR scientists at the Alliance of Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) brought together a range of partners across sectors to form the Pan-African Bean Research Alliance (PABRA), recognizing the power of better beans to provide farmers with both nutritious food and economic security for their families and communities. As the world warms, this work is growing in importance. New varieties of beans that can grow more quickly, produce higher yields and withstand droughts, pests, and disease will reduce the risk of harvest failure, helping smallholder farmers and their families adapt to the harsh realities of climate change.
For Jean Claude Rubyogo, the director of PABRA, this work is deeply personal. His parents were both farmers and he grew up fascinated by the various beans his mother cultivated, inspiring his lifelong dedication to agriculture. Today, thanks to the work led by Mr. Rubyogo and CGIAR scientists, PABRA has helped 37 million smallholder farmers across the continent – 58% of whom are women – feed their families, expand their businesses, and strengthen their communities with better beans.
In 2023, PABRA received the Africa Food Prize in recognition of exceptional leadership in expanding and protecting the biodiversity of beans. PABRA research has led to over 650 varieties of beans now in use by smallholder farmers and their families. Over the past 27 years, this work has also helped increase production – on average, bean yields have doubled across the 31 member countries – while improving quality, which has translated to increased profitability. PABRA develops beans that are of the color, shape, and size preferred by consumers, all while delivering higher nutritional value. PABRA’s high-iron beans have even been incorporated into school menus, helping reduce malnutrition among children and improving their academic performance.
To Mr. Rubyogo, beans are a superfood, and not just in the nutritional sense. “Beans are tools for systemic change – alleviating poverty, fighting malnutrition, increasing gender equality, and building a more nutritious and resilient food system for Africa.”
Learn more about better beans for Africa.