Drought tolerant beans bring relief to farmers

8 January, 2010 by (comments)

Millions of farmers are set to benefit from a new drought-tolerant bean variety developed jointly by CIAT and the national agricultural research program of Nicaragua.

Beans - Darien (contd) 2

The release of the hardy “INTA Sequia” common bean, which can survive extreme drought, coincided with last month’s United Nations COP15 Climate Change conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, where world leaders met to discuss ways to tackle climate change and help farmers around the world adapt food production.

CIAT’s new bean variety was formally released by research partner, the Nicaraguan Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA), in parts of the country’s drought-stricken Pacific Coast and central mid-altitude regions in mid-December. While the pioneering work on INTA Sequia was carried out in Central America, the improved seed will also be released elsewhere in Latin America, and in East and southern Africa, where other improved varieties are currently being tested.

Beans are the “meat of the poor” in many developing countries, providing dietary protein and essential micronutrients, as well as being an important source of income for small farmers. During trials, INTA Sequia was extremely popular with farmers in Nicaragua, producing significantly higher yields of better quality beans than locally-available commercial varieties grown under the same conditions. Farmers and their families also reported that INTA Sequia is delicious to eat. INTA Sequia is the first of several improved drought-tolerant bean varieties currently under development by CIAT and its partners.

Maps recently released by CIAT’s Decision and Policy Analysis (DAPA) Program highlighted the potential impact of drought tolerant varieties on bean production in Africa. They showed that much of Africa’s estimated 4 million hectares of bean fields are already adversely affected by rising temperatures and increasing frequency of drought linked to climate change. By 2020 as much as two-thirds of bean fields could be affected, threatening the livelihoods of around 1.75 million farming families. Over half of these areas could benefit from planting new bean varieties like INTA Sequia.

Steve Beebe, leader of CIAT’s Bean Program said: “Millions of bean farmers are under threat from climate change and the release of INTA Sequia is a major step towards adapting food production in some of the poorest countries of the world. This is a milestone for bean producers and bean scientists. Now there is no time to lose in getting the new seeds to all of the people who need them.”

Through the Pan-Africa Bean Research Alliance (PABRA), CIAT and the CGIAR (Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research) are well-positioned to distribute the new variety quickly and efficiently to African farmers. CIAT’s close links with research partners and government ministries in Latin America will also ensure dissemination is fast and effective.

Ongoing biofortification work across the CGIAR to increase the zinc, iron and protein content of common beans, means the drought-tolerant varieties could be further improved.

Contact: Steve Beebe (s.beebe@cgiar.org)

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Filed Under: Africa @en, Beans @en, Crops @en, Latin America and the Caribbean, Regions