The & # 39; super beans & # 39; hopes rise in hunger-prone areas in Africa –

The & # 39; super beans & # 39; hopes rise in hunger-prone areas in Africa


Richard Opio dipped a dirty hand in the pink beans, marveling at the dramatic changes they have made to his family. They used to harvest two sacks of normal beans; now they accept six.

The Ugandan government and agricultural experts are promoting the so-called "super grain", a variety of high yield and rapid maturity, amid efforts to feed parts of Africa prone to hunger. It is also a step towards the next goal: the "super, super bean" that researchers hope can be created. Beans are produced by conventional genetic selection, not by controversial genetic modification technologies.

The beans that Opio now grows are exciting farmers in this impoverished part of northern Uganda that also suffers the recent arrival of more than 1 million war-torn neighbor refugees, South Sudan.

The International Center for Tropical Agriculture says that beans have been bred by conventional means to withstand the drought conditions that can lead to hunger while the arable land disappears.

The group operates one of two bean "gene banks" in Africa, which are expected to be the most affected by climate change despite the fact that the continent produces less than 4 percent of the world's greenhouse gases , according to the UN Development Program.

on the outskirts of the capital of Uganda, Kampala, where the beans, now cultivated by Opium, were grown. The other is in Malawi, in southern Africa. The beans stored in the two banks are sent to partners in 30 countries across the continent to be developed further so that they can cope with local conditions.

The Ugandan bank stocks around 4,000 types of beans, including some from neighboring Rwanda before 1994. The genocide killed some 800,000 people and wiped out many of the country's bean varieties.

"Beans have to go through some rigorous testing before they can be released to the general public, to make sure they really address all the problems and work well in different weather conditions," said Stanley Nkalubo, a research scientist at legumes of the National Agricultural Research Organization of Uganda.

The striped bean that Opio harvest is now 35 years old is called NABE15, and has proved so popular that the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations recently hired a large commercial producer to supply 21 tons for its distribution to refugees from South Sudan as planting material. [19659002] Humanitarian workers hope that the beans will encourage refugees to grow their own food instead of relying on handouts, which in some cases have been cut off due to shortages of funds.

"It is important to find other sources of food to complement food badistance," said Beatrice Okello, senior program manager of FAO in Uganda, and said that only 50 kilograms of seed for up to 2,000 kilograms of beans are expected. .

Experts say that "super" beans are valuable because they cook quickly and tolerate most diseases and pests. "It's also a bright red color, which local consumers like, and it's sweeter," said Dr. Robin Buruchara, director of the Pan-African Bean Research Alliance.

On a recent morning, contractor Felix Otim saw his colleagues full planting materials in bags with the FAO mark destined for a nearby refugee camp. The beans will save many lives, he said. Instead of using 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of beans for lunch, planting it will multiply the benefit several times.

Even "super" beans are not perfect, but farm workers are looking for genetic tools for future solutions.

"It is very difficult to breed any bean variety with the best traits: early mature, drought tolerant, pest tolerant, high micronutrients, that would be the super, super grain," said Debisi Araba, the African chief of the Center of Tropical Agriculture. "But that's what we're working for, now there are genetic editing tools available that give scientists the ability to map these genetic varieties and potentially start studying the possibility of raising these super and super-crops."

For now, the "super" beans are finding followers in northern Uganda. After a neighbor noticed that Opium plants were working well, he bought a sample. Now the beans are marketed across the border in turbulent South Sudan, where famine is once again a threat.

"Although the objective is the groups of farmers and organizations in Uganda, the beneficiaries are beyond the borders of Uganda," Araba said.

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