Beans are one of the staple foods in Uganda, and have recently become a cash crop. But many bean farmers are facing challenges from pests and diseases, which threaten their food security and income.
Nabajja Jema is fighting these challenges, using quality seeds and pesticides to ensure a good harvest, healthy diet, and good income.
Mrs. Jema grows beans in the Kyotera district of central Uganda. Every season she plants beans to feed her five young children and sells the surplus to pay school fees.
She says, “Pests and diseases are a serious problem. When you are planting beans for sale, you have to take diseases into consideration.” Mrs. Jema puts money aside every season to buy good seed and pesticides from certified suppliers. She believes that without seed and pesticides, a farmer who plans to sell her harvest will not make a profit.
The most common bean diseases are bean anthracnose and bean rot, both of which Mrs. Jema manages, certified seed. She says she is happy that with pesticides, she can manage pests.
On top of dealing with pests and diseases, Mrs. Jema makes sure she plants and weeds on time to ensure a good harvest. She plants soon after the first rain and weeds two weeks after germination, when the rains are sufficient. She explains, “In times of heavy rains, I weed twice because the weeds reappear soon after the first weeding.”
Yasin Lutaaya is the extension worker in Kyotera. He says that across Uganda, beans are now among the key staple foods like maize, matoke, and sweet potatoes. He says, “The poorest families have beans for all three meals of the day, every day of the year, except for the big days like Christmas and Eid.”
Mr. Lutaaya adds: “There is a massive market for beans right from the farm gate to the small shops in villages, to big markets in the cities, and even for the export market. For this reason, season in and season out, beans are on every farmer’s list of crops to plant.”
Mr. Lutaaya says that beans are a good crop because they are easy to grow, mothers know they are nutritious, and they do well in coffee and banana plantations.
Mrs. Jema plants beans on small plots that add up to about two acres of land. When the rains are good, she harvests about eight 120-kilogram bags. Each bag earns her around 120,000 Uganda shillings ($34 US). She says, “There is good money in beans because now we have many boarding schools in the district that buy from us.”
Mrs. Jema has been growing beans since her childhood, but only started growing them for cash four years ago when her eldest son joined secondary school. She says, “I knew I needed a lot of money to pay for my son in secondary school and beans seemed like they had a ready market.” She likes beans because they have a longer shelf life than matoke or sweet potatoes.
Mrs. Jema has been able to pay school fees for three children who are now in secondary school. She says: “I wouldn’t have done it without growing beans for sale…. Now I know anything is possible. I might even be able to take them up to university. But I need to buy more land to be able to do that.”