The common bean is an important crop for food/nutrition security, cash income and agro ecosystem improvement (soil fertility) in Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania. Beans are also an important component of diets in urban areas. Through collaboration within the Southern Africa Bean Research Network (SABRN) which operating in association with the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) based in Malawi, improved cultivars of beans have been selected in each country.
In the first phase of the project, there were significant achievements in participatory bean variety selection, and identification of selection criteria for new bean varieties by various stakeholders (farmers, traders, consumers. New bean varieties were released in Malawi, whereas in Mozambique and southern highlands of Tanzania varieties were identified for official release. In phase II the project continues the analysis of bean seed production and delivery systems to generate lessons regarding which systems work best under what circumstances and for which category of clients, so that they can be scaled up and out for wider use. With the exception of Malawi where a government seed subsidy guarantees a market for seed, beans have not been of interest to private sector seed companies as they are self-pollinated so farmers can grow crops from seed that they save.
Diversified local systems (including community seed groups, individual farmers, and local stores using small seed packets) will therefore be critical for farmer access to new varieties. Research, led by CIAT and implemented in national programs focuses on further development and analysis of local seed systems to determine which are most efficient at providing farmers with quality seed, and a) speeding up the testing of any new promising varieties – as variety development is a continuous process; b) Widely testing and fast tracking use of best non-variety bean-based technologies to increase production, reduce post-harvest loss c) enhance utilization/marketing of beans to increase farmers’ wellbeing (nutrition and economic returns at farmer level and along supply chains d) developing bean commodity functional platforms in the three countries to ensure better information flow and understanding among stakeholders.
Develop evidence of adaptation and acceptability of new bean lines for release
Mainstream the use of promising seed dissemination models including decentralized seed production systems and innovative marketing using the small seed pack approach
Provide information been production technologies so that seed producers can optimize yields of new cultivars
Development of bean commodity platforms in each country to pilot collaboration and information exchange between stakeholders to enhance the development of bean-based
agro-enterprises and ultimately motivate actors in the supply chains
Outputs and Outcomes:
Bean improvement is a continuous process and bean lines from a range of market classes, including different seed sizes, will be assessed in PVS using the network of farm communities and test locations established in phase 1. As evidence is accumulated on their acceptability, selected lines will be registered for release in each country.
Building on work undertaken in phase 1, the project will work with a number of partners to mainstream the use of promising seed dissemination models, collecting evidence of their strengths and weaknesses including decentralized seed production systems and innovative marketing of certified seeds using the small seed pack approach. The assessment will focus on the type of seed producers and the seed quality, the cost-benefit analysis/financial and institutional viability, the type of distribution models, the type of farmers reached and their numbers. As a result of created seed demand of improved bean varieties, pressure is mounting on NARS to produce adequate amounts of foundation seeds, but their capacity is very limited. Therefore, opportunities to support the development of alternative producers of breeders’ and foundation seed will be investigated and information generated on their efficiency and operational conditions. In Malawi this will be linked to the RIU program – legumes platform, TLII project and the PABRA seed systems initiatives.
Work will be initiated to provide information useful to farmers on bean production technologies so that seed producers can optimize yields of new cultivar. Information on validated non-seed production technologies will also be of use to the wider farming community. This will include field trial with botanical insecticides, in collaboration with the SAf botanicals project, reduction of post-harvest loss and testing ISFM practices with seed growers. The proposal also lists activities to develop and promote “bean-based food baskets” to enhance nutrition with out providing any detail on the work involved or the expected output.
Functional bean commodity platforms will be a useful addition to agriculture R&D institutions in each country. These will provide the opportunity to pilot collaboration and information exchange between stakeholders to enhance the development of bean-based agro-enterprises and ultimately motivate actors in the supply chain for smooth delivery of products and services. This will provide opportunities for all stakeholders to appreciate each others’ roles, which are necessary to drive the platform, as several actors will increasingly be interested in a complete and functional supply chain – starting from bean seed supply to grain marketing including value addition. The Seed system workshop held in Lilongwe in September 2010 highlighted the lack of communication in the seed supply chain for example. Foundation seed producers are not familiar with the size of their market while seed growers often find it difficult to procure sufficient foundation seed. Seed growers also need a better understanding of their market so that they do not over produce. Bean platforms will test out a model to improve communication among stakeholders, this will be vital if a diversified seed system is to reach thousands of smallholder farmers across the region.