It’s harvest season for beans in northwestern Tanzania. Monica Lugesha is wearing a bright blue dress and a shiny pink, waxed headscarf. The 70-year-old mother is busy harvesting beans. She is happy because she is reaping the fruits of her hard work.
Mrs. Lugesha lives in Rulenge, in Ngara district. She says many farmers in the area lose some of their beans while harvesting and transporting them.
Mrs. Lugesha is trying her best to reduce those post-harvest losses. She says, “I harvest my beans and transport them to my home. There, I dry my beans on canvas.”
She says most farmers harvest beans by uprooting and collecting the plants in one part of their field. Then they tie the plants together with a rope and carry them on their heads to their homes. She explains: “Whenever we harvest, we lose our beans because pods crack in the field. Other farmers transport beans using motorbikes or bicycles, and many of the beans are lost on the way.”
Mastidia Venus also grows beans in Ngara district. The 40-year-old says that a farmer can lose up to 10 kilograms of beans per acre when pods burst in the field or in transport.
Adronizi Bulindoli is another bean farmer from Ngara. He says many farmers in the district harvest beans when they are too dry, which makes the pods burst and scatters the bean seeds in the field.
Mr. Bulindoli says it’s difficult to pick up seeds that have dropped on the ground during harvesting. He advises farmers to harvest in the morning when pods are not too dry.
Essau Nyamziga is an extension officer in the area. He agrees with Mr. Bulindoli that harvesting beans when they are too dry can increase losses. He encourages farmers to harvest when the beans turn brown, and use quality storage containers.
Constatine Mdende is the District Agriculture Irrigation and Co-operative Officer in Ngara. He estimates that about 46,000 tonnes of beans will be harvested this year in his district, and of these, 2,300 tonnes will be lost. He says farmers should carry beans in strong plastic bags to avoid losing them during transportation.
Apart from relying on extension staff for advice on how to reduce post-harvest losses, farmers in Ngara can also learn by listening to the radio. Frank Ademba is a project officer with Farm Radio International, an NGO that works with Ngara’s Radio Kwizera to produce farmer programs. He says the radio programs encourage farmers to grow beans, covering topics such as planting, harvesting, post-harvest management, and marketing.
One farmer who changed her practices after listening to the radio programs is Sophia Metusera from Kumuzuza village in Ngara district. As she walks with her friends from the field carrying harvested bean seeds in a bucket, she says, “I prefer transporting the beans seeds [rather than pods], because when carrying beans while they are in the pods, the pods can easily crack on the way and seeds will drop.”
Mrs. Metusera says she learned how to grow beans from Radio Kwizera’s programs. She adds, “I want to be the best bean farmer in my village.”
This work was created with the support of AGRA, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, as part of the project, “Agricultural transformation for increased income and improved food security and livelihood among smallholder farmers in Kagera region/ Western Tanzania.” The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of AGRA or any other organization.