Multipurpose legumes II

Lead Organization:

Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization - KARLO-Kibos

Partner Organizations:

Rural Energy Food Supply Organization (REFSO), University of Nairobi, Egerton University, AVENE, Appropriate Rural Development Agricultural Programme (ARDAP), Cornell University

Community of Practice:

East & Southern Africa






Poor soil fertility and incidences of pest and diseases are major causes of the low productivity of smallholder farming systems in western Kenya. Multipurpose grain legumes have the potential for improving the health and productivity of smallholder systems. In the current phase of the project, bean, groundnut, soybean, lablab, pigeon pea, cowpea and green pea were screened and evaluated by farmers in diverse agroecological zones in Nandi County, Kenya. Bean, lablab, groundnut and soybean were the most preferred grain legumes and are beginning to diversify the farming systems and diets in many households. In addition, many farmers been inspired by the improvements in soil fertility and Striga weed suppression that they are beginning to observe as a result of planting these legumes. In the proposed project extension phase, the team intends to build on these gains, while addressing the gaps and challenges in order for the grain legumes to have greater impact on food security, health and nutrition and household income. The gaps and challenges revolve around understanding the nature of large spatial and temporal variation in legume performance that are driven by complex interactions of biophysical and socio-economic factors in these extremely heterogeneous smallholder farming systems. Building on their past achievements, the project team will address existing constraints and gaps in knowledge, adding new activities and enhancing farmer participation to achieve greater impact.

Grant Aims:

The aim of the project is the sustainable integration of multiple species and cultivars of legumes into the smallholder farming systems of western Kenya. Legume diversity on farms in the region is generally quite low. Farmers primarily grow one or two cultivars of common beans, which often perform poorly due to multiple pest and disease problems. The project begins its interaction with farmers by engaging them in dialogue on the many roles that legumes can play in local farming systems, including improved household health and nutrition, soil fertility improvement, suppression of parasitic weeds affecting cereals and income generation. The project introduces farmers to a diversity of grain legumes and food products that can be made from them; farmers select the ones that they want to try on their own farms and the project provides technical support and follow-up to experimenting farmers. The researchers focus on understanding the causes of spatial and temporal variation in legume performance to improve to crop, soil and pest management practices and targeting of socioecological legume niches. During the last phase of the project, farmers embraced a number of new grain legumes (lablab, soya and groundnuts) in addition to root rot tolerant bean varieties. For the next phase, the project team proposes to harness GIS and Farmer Research Networks to better understand the drivers of variable legume performance, establish tradeoffs associated with different legume options and facilitate the identification of socio-ecological niches for scaling out the legumes to farmers in new areas.

Outputs and Outcomes:


  • Introduction of alternative grain legumes into the system, leading to an increase in the variety of crops grown, facilitating crop rotation, breaking pest and disease cycles and improved soil fertility and biological health
  • Diversified household diets due to promotion and utilization of a variety of multi-purpose legumes
  • Promotion and out-scaling of a variety of legumes, establishment of community based seed production of the legumes and sale of surplus grains due to increased productivity
  • Capacity in systems research built in researchers and farmers


  • Improved system health and productivity
  • Diversified diets and improved nutritional status
  • Increased business opportunities and income
  • Improved capacity for systems research