By Ange de la Victoire DUSABEMUNGU
Kigali-Rwanda: The Pan-African Bean Research Alliance (PABRA) has been recognized for its contribution in the bean crop value addition that has positively impacted small holder farmers across Africa and on the international market.
PABRA’s contributions were reiterated in the AGRF 2022 Pre-Summit Side Event which was held in Kigali on September 5, 2022.
The meeting which brought together researchers, governments representatives, nutrition agencies and farmers was an opportune time to discuss the PABRA’s evolution in the last 25 years as well as looking together on the way forward.
Speaking on PABRA Evolution, Jean Claude Rubyogo who is the Global Bean Program Leader and PABRA Director explained that: “What was the context that time when PABRA was established, there was a declining yield across countries and harvests but also increasing demand of beans beyond household, the small scale farmer, subsistence farmer and even the trading level.”
“If you look at what’s happened since 2009, we’ve consolidated the market led demand and the demand led breeding which really made people start thinking on how we can make a difference by moving from subsistence to commercial, highly nutritious crops.” Mr. Jean Claude said
“From 2009 to 2013, we continued expanding on the value chain, we started looking at how the flow of beans across the region goes? What can we do to make that tradable commodity better? So we started looking at the flow from distribution, from consumption to the production and how what we do can improve nutrition.” He added.
In numbers, Mr. Jean Claude said that PABRA has as of today responded to the demand of 150 million smallholders across Africa, though there is still a step to make forward.
“We have not reached all of them. We have reached one third as we have 400 million consumer demand, but at least we contribute to that as well.” He said.
He added that more than 540 partners are working together on a common framework, and well-coordinated framework for investment in bean crop research.
Reflecting briefly on the next PABRA 25 years, in his keynote speech, Eric Huttner – Crop Research Manager at the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), said that “After we heard all the achievements of PABRA over 25 years,…It is clear that the world and the partnership that we operate with is changing.”
“With few years’ visit to Africa, the situation, the level, the local capacity, in many dimensions is changing very rapidly. So I think the challenge for PABRA to remain productive and relevant in the future is really to embrace and to foster the evolution of the roles and the responsibilities of the various actors in the field.” Mr. Eric said.
“We recognize that a large number of local researchers now have much more capacity to contribute to the ultimate goal and so the re-imagining of this partnership is probably going to be required.” He added.
Mr. Eric noted that “ACIAR is extremely grateful for the major contribution that PABRA has made to bring genetic innovation to bean growers, and we hope bean consumers in Africa will continue to benefit from these innovations.”
“The past was very successful, and we are looking forward to a very bright future.” He concluded.
From her side, Claudia Sadoff, the Executive Managing Director of CGIAR which is a global partnership that unites international organizations engaged in research about food security, highlighted that PABRA 25years demonstrates the value of the research to improve the food security, climate resilient economy and health.
“For example, a significant uptake of the adoption of these nutrient rich beans across so many territories, including here in Rwanda, between 2004 and 2011 there was a 20% increase in the production of improved varieties.” She said,
“Rwandan farmers have seen a 50% increase in their yield and an additional 16% of Rwandan households would be food insecure, if it weren’t for the work of the scientists and the availability of these nutritional agencies.” Mrs. Claudia added.
She illustrated that 35 million people in Africa were affected by hunger in 2020, as compared to 2019, before the COVID pandemic, and an additional 15 million people were hungry in 2021.
“So, in the face of these food system crises faced in Africa and beyond, we can also consider that the potential of improved varieties of beans must be scaled even further.” She said,
“Building on the success of PABRA and the experts that are here today, we are uncertain that we can inspire bold action and ensure that beans are made key to building resilient food systems in line with the Malabo commitments, and the SDGs you know.” Mrs. Claudia explains.