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Scaling up the supply of precooked beans to improve food and nutrition security

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The Cultivate Africa’s Future Fund (CultiAF) is a ten-year, CA$35 million partnership (AUD$37 million) between IDRC and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR). CultiAF funds applied research aimed at improving food security, resilience, and gender equality across Eastern and Southern Africa.

Researchers will leverage public-private partnerships in Kenya and Uganda to promote the use of precooked bean products that improve food and nutrition security, generate income for smallholder farmers, and support environmental conservation practices.

The first phase of this project developed bean products that reduce cooking times and the amount of tedious work for women. The research also improved environmental outcomes, transformed ad hoc dry bean markets into structured industrial-driven markets, and improved consumer dietary diversity.

The second phase of the project will assess the actors and factors that help or hinder the public-private partnership models. The research team will also analyze the effects of the social, gender, and economic trade-offs of market-driven production and supply models on the consumption patterns, food security, nutrition, and social and economic welfare of households.

The challenge

Unprocessed dry beans are a traditional subsistence crop in eastern and central Africa. Although they are slow to cook, dry beans are popular, nutritious, and a key source of protein among low-income households. The importance of unprocessed dry beans in sub-Saharan Africa is reflected in the 1.67% per capita per year increase in bean consumption between 1994 and 2008.

The rapid expansion of urban populations, rising incomes, and high costs of energy in recent years have fuelled the demand for fast-cooking, processed foods. Canned or frozen beans are sometimes available, but they are only affordable to a minority of wealthy consumers. Scaling up the accessibility of precooked beans would mean that all consumers benefit from their nutritional qualities while lessening cooking times and reducing fuel consumption. To inform the scale-up process, the research team requires data about the effects of precooked beans on gender empowerment, household income, employment, fuel use, household consumption patterns, and nutrition.

The research

The limited supply of beans for processing, which affects the volume and availability of precooked bean products, has hindered their success in the markets since they were released during the first phase of the project in 2016.

In this second phase, researchers will scale up the supply of raw beans by boosting production among farmers, especially women. This will be achieved in part by improving the existing public-private partnership, which will hasten the supply of the precooked bean products to meet consumer demand. The project will improve the income, nutrition, and health of households along the bean value chain by increasing bean production and consumption.

Expected outcomes

  • Reach 1.2 million consumers with precooked bean products;
  • Enhance income for 8,700 small-scale farmers (60% women);
  • Improve bean production and supply and business models for precooked beans (including the financial inclusion of women, men, and youth);
  • Increase decision-making among women and youth in bean production and marketing;
  • Produce public-private partnership case study management models;
  • Enhance gender equity and household bean consumption patterns.

Learn more about this project.