Beans Enterprises and Structured Traded (BEST) in the EAC
Funder: Trustees of Kilimo Trust
Scope: Burundi, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda
The East African Common Market Protocol (EACM) presents unique opportunity for delivering food security in the region because increased regional trade that effectively utilizes comparative advantages and economies of scale in the production of food staples would increase availability, in space and time, of nutritious foods at affordable prices for the low-income earners, while increasing profitability and income security for producers.
In the past, most of the efforts and investment in the sector have consistently focused on increasing on-farm productivity but average yields for major commodities in the region remain largely unchanged. To turn the on-farm efforts into tangible results, attention should be to developing sustainable markets and enhancing market access by low-income producers as well as low-income consumers. This requires the development of a thriving and profitable market-driven food sector so as to provide sufficient incentives for the millions of smallholders to expand production beyond the minimum they need for their own consumption. Sustainability can only be achieved if the markets for staple foods expand in size and reach. KT is working with different partners to develop regional markets.
Beans are among the leading contributors to nutrition security in the EAC and are considered a staple by largest proportion (41%) of population in the EAC and if taken as single unit, the EAC would be the third producer of beans after Myanmar and India. Per capita consumption of up to 45 kg is estimated to be the highest in the world compared to 3 kg in the USA, it is the most affordable source of protein because, in the EAC – one (1) US$ spent on beans will provide the consumer with; protein (319 grams), iron (101 milligrams), zinc (38 milligrams) and fibre (336 grams) - while one (1) US$ spent on beef will provide the consumer with; protein (48 grams) and very little of the others. As the world turns into health eating, beans prevent progression of diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, among others.
On the other hand, beans have a high potential for improving incomes for a large number of smallholders because on average, gross margins at farm-gate are US$ 123–279/MT as compared to maize (US$28–135/MT) a common cereal in the region (KT, 2011). In addition, beans enhances the environment through Nitrogen fixation. If only grains are removed from the farm, beans can replace up to 50% of their nitrogen requirement. Their mulching effects suppress weeds and reduces erosion. With respect to water use, under improved agronomy in the EAC, it is estimated that 1.7 cubic metres of evapo-transpiration is required to produce a kilogram of beans – compared to 33 cubic metres required to produce a kilogram of beef, a close protein alternative.
In terms of interventions, a lot of past, present and planned large investments target beans with the outcomes including many innovative varieties, practices and technologies for enhancing productivity of beans and research capacity. These outcomes constitute a tremendous asset upon which markets and structured regional trade can be enhanced. Furthermore, beans feature in the priority commodities targeted by leading funding organizations and governments.
The premier target of the program is the smallholders as consumers and/or producers, and the Developmental Objective (DO) is to “support consumer-driven markets and structured regional trade of beans and bean-food-products in the EAC” - to enhance the leading role of beans in food and nutrition security, wealth creation, and sustainable agriculture
The following are the planned results:
Result #1 - Operationalized business linkages for regional trade in beans and bean-food-products;
Result #2 - Commercialized market-demanded nutritious and safe bean-food-products;
Result #3 - Optimized post-harvest handling and value addition processing of beans for regional trade; and
Result #4 - Enhanced capacity of KT as a regional platform for supporting trade based food security in the EAC.