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New bean varieties boost yields in Cameroon

April 4, 2013
Farmers are betting on hardier bean varieties - Flickr/Oxfam InternationalFarmers in Cameroon are growing new varieties of beans that are providing much higher yields than traditional varieties that are susceptible to pests, diseases, and adverse weather. Seven varieties of hardier and more nutritious beans are now being distributed to farmers, following extensive trials by the country's Institute of Agricultural Research for Development (IRAD).
Sylvain Tchoffo, a farmer who tested the new varieties last year, says: "I harvested 18 bags of beans, three more than the year before, for the same quantity sowed on the same ground. I noticed that caterpillars did not destroy the leaves and the pods of my beans."

Martin Nguegim, a researcher at IRAD,reveals that the varieties were selected from hundreds given to Cameroon by the Pan-Africa Bean Research Alliance (PABRA), a multi-agency initiative that coordinates bean research on the continent. Trials and selection of varieties were conducted at the institute and by farmers from 2006 to 2012.800,000 farmers were involved in the selection process.

"It was only last year that the first varieties were officially selected," he observes,  "We proceeded by selective introduction, testing varieties that best suited the agro-ecological conditions of Cameroon."

Laurent Nounamo, national research coordinator at IRAD for the programme , says that the seven varieties adopted can produce up to three tonnes per hectare compared with 1.5 tonnes for traditional varieties. They are also richer in proteins, iron and zinc. However, long distances between IRAD research stations and farmers are a problem when it comes to promoting the new varieties, a problem he suggests to solve by setting up local networks of farmers trained in the production of quality seeds. These seeds are currently selling for US$1.52 per kilogramme - interestingly, the same price seeds for traditional varieties.

Beans are eaten by many in Cameroon and in the region. The food is one of the main dishes in school feeding programmes and is common in family meals.

This article is adapted from a piece by Anne Mireille Nzouankeu that was published at Scidev.Net on 22nd March 2013.

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