Farmers who are growing iron-rich beans across the country are experiencing a rising demand of produce on the market considering the crop potential in beating malnutrition.
According to farmers growing the crop in Gatsibo District, the crop is impressively high yielding, giving farmers unprecedented harvests, potent solutions to micronutrient deficiency as it offers a sustainable solution to iron deficiency that can stem its negative impacts on brain development, learning capacity, and overall health.
Diets deficient in iron are a major cause of debilitating anemia, which affects 33 per cent of children under five and also a big percentage of pregnant women in Rwanda.
Icyerekezo Rugenge cooperative is one of the three cooperatives that grow Iron-rich beans using solar-powered irrigation along Lake Muhazi in Gatsibo District.
Felicien Ntwari, the cooperative president in the Kiramuruzi sector said: “We grow Iron-rich beans on two hectares. The variety has been found with double productivity compared to other bean varieties. Today the price of Iron-rich beans is sold at Rwf800 per Kilogramme which is double of the old varieties since others are sold at Rwf350.”
According to studies iron beans yield 17-22 per cent more in volume than other types of beans grown in the country and an additional $57-78 of profit per hectare.
Other attractive agronomic properties of iron beans include virus resistance, heat and drought tolerance.
Two more cooperatives in Gatsibo District namely Abahujakabuga Cooperative and Zamuka Munini cooperative have also invested in growing Iron-rich beans.
According to officials, the cooperatives have been linked to a potential client as a way of linking farmers to the market.
“Currently the Iron-rich beans are grown on only 15 hectares in Gatsibo District. There is a need to expand the growing of this crop. This is because there are high demands of Iron-rich beans on the market as it plays a significant role reducing malnutrition and fetching better prices compared to other bean varieties. Today there is a dealer buying one Kilogramme at Rwf800 yet few farmers are growing it,” said Ernest Nsigayehe in charge of agriculture, animal resources and natural resources in Gatsibo district.
Over 50,000 farmers growing Iron beans
The cooperatives in Gatsibo district are part of over 50,000 farmers that have obtained Iron bean seeds to increase productivity under the support of Hinga Weze-USAID funded project in partnership with Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Development Board (RAB).
So far over 50,000 farmers have received 180 tonnes of High-iron bean seeds.
The project to close by 2022 has also distributed 554.689 metric tonnes of orange flesh sweet potato to over 100,000 farmers.
By 2022 over 700,000 smallholder farmers are set to benefit in the districts of Bugesera, Gatsibo, Kayonza, and Ngoma (Eastern Province); Karongi, Ngororero, Nyabihu, Nyamasheke, and Rutsiro (Western Province); and Nyamagabe (Southern Province) and across five value chains namely high-iron beans, orange flesh sweet potato (OFSP), Irish potato, maize, and horticulture.
Nutritional status of women and children
The investment aims to sustainably increase smallholder farmers’ income, improve the nutritional status of women and children, and increase the resilience of Rwanda’s agricultural and food systems to a changing climate.
According to the latest Demographic and Health Survey released last year by National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda, the percentage of stunted children under the age of five dropped from 38 per cent to 33 per cent in the last five years.
However, more efforts are needed to ensure that the issue of stunting is reduced from the current 33 percent to the projected 19 percent in 2024.
In 2005 stunting among children was at 51 per cent, which reduced to 44 per cent in 2010 before further easing to 38 per cent in 2015.
Anaemia among the children under five years old is also still a challenge.
Anaemia is a condition in which there is a deficiency of red cells or of haemoglobin in the blood.
Government has committed 3 per cent reduction rate in stunting and will help reduce stunting by 50 per cent reduction by 2024.