In 2011, Alexis Nzeyimana, a farmer in Karembo Sector in Ngoma District, decided to cultivate climbing beans on his three-hectare piece of land.
It was a huge gamble, yet today, Nzeyimana looks back with pride. From selling his harvest, Nzeyimana has been able to acquire extra four hectares of land.
His favourite variety is ISAR CB 101 (MAC44), which he believes is a modern route to a farmer’s wealth.
From proceeds of the beans, Nzeyimana has constructed a house valued at Rwf9 million and is able to take care of his children without a hassle.
While other farmers in Eastern Province are struggling to be like him, this industrious farmer is eyeing a bigger market by increasing the area under tillage.
Most farmers who derive wealth from beans are limited by the yield, diseases and planting space. The same farmers are also unaware of varieties that have improved qualities.
Although climbing beans could be a remedy to some of these shortcomings, the initial varieties favour high altitudes.
For this case, the Rwanda Agriculture Board (Rab), in partnership with several organisations like Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), has introduced several varieties of climbing beans that have high resistance to diseases and high yielding.
The varieties that are to be promoted in the region include RAB CB 12-2 (RWV 2872), RAB CB 12-9 (RWV 2269), ISAR CB 105 (MAC 49), ISAR CB 106 (MAC 9), and ISAR CB 102 (1129)
Augustine Musoni, the coordinator of beans research at Rab, during a two-day workshop in Kigali last week, said: “Unlike Western Province, the Eastern Province experiences slightly high temperatures, which would require specially adapted crops.”
Through a series of research, Rab has also developed climbing beans that can tolerate medium attitude environment while still maintaining yield.
Variety not exploited
Although statistics from Rab indicate that beans in the country were intensively grown – taking about 22 to 30 per cent (270,000 to 320,000 hectares) of the arable land with an annual production of about 290,000 tonnes by 2011 – climbing beans had been only adopted at a level of one per cent compared to the bush variety.
“Among the new varieties, ISAR CB 107 (MAC 44) has shown a lot of success in the eastern region. Rab will continue to promote these beans across the country, to improve the livelihood of both the farmers and dealers,” Musoni said.
Experts say climbing beans in the western region have been adapted to about 95 per cent.
Despite the prime target being creating a bean system that is sustainable with breeders producing their own mid-altitude climbing beans in the east, these drought tolerant beans also have a lot of benefits to human life.
Stephanie Maylon, communication specialist from CIAT, said: “Beans are nutritious, provide proteins, iron and a lot of different bean recipes have also been developed to increase bean usage and consumption.”
Clare Mukankusi, a bean breeder in CIAT, said: “The challenges are many but farmers have realised that climbing beans have more advantages compared to the bush beans that were grown originally on a large scale.”