Beans, Beans, and the Power of Genes

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by Steve Beebe

Agriculture is one of the key foundations of human society. Agriculture has come to be recognized as an elemental component in improving the lives of people around the world given its multifaceted roles as an economic activity, as the foundation of human nutrition, and as a way of life. When seismic events such as the COVID pandemic or the 2008 crisis threaten to break the links between agriculture and the broader society, mankind is reminded of its dependence on agriculture.

Yet the current and future challenges to agriculture are unprecedented. Agricultural production and the rural way of life are among the first victims of climate change. Soil degradation threatens long-term sustainability. An imbalance in output of different agricultural products contributes to the triple nutritional burden of macro- and micro-nutrient malnutrition, and to non-communicable (chronic) diseases. Population growth demands that agriculture increase its output, at the same time as rural populations surrender to the fragility of their lifestyle and move to urban slums. All of this, occurring amidst a backdrop of climate change and increasing climate variability.

Strategic foresight analysis is one way to look at future trends in relation to their interaction with the agriculture system. Seldom has an objective foresight analysis been so needed to refocus agricultural research to meet these challenges. An initial analysis to inform the CGIAR research portfolio developed in cooperation with IFPRI and the PIM research activity on strategic foresight looked at total current economic value of crops by region. In order to provide support for targeted decisions for specific crops, such analysis must be extended to be holistic and futuristic in relation to the crop in question.

The Bean Program of the Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT has initiated such analysis for common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) and presents a summary of its preliminary results in five policy briefs. Continue reading>>


Photo: Beans in South Sudan. Credit: ©2013CIAT/Neil Palmer

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