Farmers in regions with less or unreliable rainfall can grow beans for commercial purposes following the release of four quick maturing and drought tolerant drought varieties.
Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Organisation National Coordinator for Grains and Legumes David Karanja says KAT Bean 9, KAT Bean X69, KAT Bean 1 and KAT Bean X65 mature within two months, as opposed to normal varieties which take up to 90 days.
The export market, especially to the European Union, remains lucrative with a total demand exceeding 30,000 metric tonnes per year.
Karanja says the new varieties are an opportunity for both small and large-scale farmers to earn big money within the shortest time.
“The four varieties do not have a bigger margin in productivity when compared to the ordinary breeds. But they will withstand water shortage to give a farmer returns, even in states where the ordinary varieties cannot survive,” the coordinator said.
Depending on crop husbandry, a farmer can harvest between 400 kg and 700 kg from one acre. And prices of the beans would be higher by about 20 per cent when compared to the ordinary breeds in the market.
The beans are preferred for export after packaging, canning and saucing.
Given that they do not cause the stomach to be full with gas, Karanja says, consumers would like these beans because there is no flatulence.
They are also easy to prepare into snacks after pre-cooking.
“Urban populations do not have much time to cook beans, but the varieties are handy- they cook for maximum of 15 minutes. The pre-cocked characteristic makes them energy and time efficient, therefore, standing out from the rest,” he says.
Many small-scale farmers in the country intercrop beans with maize in their shambas. Whilst they buy certified maize grains from authorised dealers, beans are got directly from previous harvests or local cereal vendors.
In 2013, Kenya exported at least 4,200 metric tonnes of beans and peas to the EU.
The research was funded by the Canadian international Development Research Centre, and the Australian Centre for International Agriculture.
KALRO worked with their Ugandan counterpart National Agriculture Research organisation, among other partners.