Helping beans gain ground in West Africa

18 January, 2010 by (comments)

By Olive Thiong’o – CIAT Africa

As the West and Central Africa Bean Research Network (WECABREN) regional meeting began today, the air was thick with expectation of improving ways to intensify bean production in the region, despite the expected effects of climate change.

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WECABREN is the most recent entrant to the Pan Africa Bean Research Alliance (PABRA), with 11 member countries, including: Central African Republic, Cameroon, Togo, Congo Brazzaville, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Conakry, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Mali, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire. Representatives from these countries include scientists from various research organisations, (including National Agricultural Research Organisations -NARS), who are working with their respective governments for agricultural development.Running from 18-21 January, in Accra, Ghana, the meeting will focus on the steps to be taken in PABRA’s new phase (2009 – 2013). It will review and assess earlier bean production efforts of the countries, particularly the last two years of PABRA’s 2003-2008 phase, including the planting methods used; pests and diseases encountered and how they were handled; weather conditions affecting or aiding productions; and market opportunities and constraints. These will then help define the way forward, for the new phase of PABRA, what can be done differently or better in the next 5 years. This opportunity to share knowledge and ideas amongst representatives from these countries is seen as essential for developing plans for the new phase.

In his opening remarks, by Dr Asafo-Adjei Baffour, a senior research scientist of the Crops Research Institute (CRI) on behalf of the Director, said: “Though the common bean (Phaseolus) is not popular in West Africa, there is tremendous potential for bean production in Ghana. For this reason, backed by the fruitful collaboration between CRI and CIAT in the cassava project, we hope that our relationship will be extended to beans for the benefit of Ghanaians and all of Africa.”

The three main objectives of the WECABREN network go hand in hand with the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals, seeking to improve incomes, empower people and alleviate poverty. In this new PABRA phase, countries like Ghana -where groundnuts, cowpeas and soybeans are the main grain legumes – will be encouraged to grow the common bean, in order to meet these objectives.

“Due to the changes in climatic conditions that will greatly affect farmer livelihoods, it is pertinent to intensify bean production,” said Dr Robin Buruchara, CIAT Africa coordinator and PABRA facilitator. “The enlarged scope of production will serve the ever increasing markets and need for the crop in the bean-scarce region.”

With presentation of bean work reports from most of the member countries, and CIAT-PABRA experts in nutrition, wider impact and breeding activities among others, West Africa looks forward to identifying ways to move forward in genetic improvement, integrated pest and disease management and reaching the beneficiaries.

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Filed Under: Africa @en, Beans @en, Crops @en, Regions