Ethiopia: Farmers grow faba beans to boost family nutrition and health

| June 21, 2021

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Girma Kebede lives in Ticho wereda, in southeastern Ethiopia. Her family has four hectares of land where they grow faba beans and crops such as soybeans and sorghum. They also have four cows. But for meals, they mainly rely on faba beans, a crop with numerous benefits. Mrs. Kebede says, “My family grows faba beans, which we consume like the way other people eat meat. We know that whenever we eat faba beans, we are eating more protein.” Faba beans are also a good food for pregnant women because they contain high levels of a vitamin called folate, which results in lower rates of birth defects. Faba beans are also rich in vitamins and minerals such as calcium and phosphorus. Many Ethiopian families are convinced of the nutritional benefits of faba beans and consumption is increasing, which means a good market for faba bean farmers.

Girma Kebede wakes up early in the morning to milk her four cows. Then, she uses the milk to prepare breakfast for her family before going to the farm with her husband to weed faba beans. Mrs. Kebede says, “My family grows faba beans, which we consume the way other people eat meat. We know that whenever we eat faba beans, we are eating more protein.”

Mrs. Kebede lives in Ticho wereda, in southeastern Ethiopia. Her family has four hectares of land where they grow faba beans and crops such as soybeans and sorghum. But for meals, they mainly rely on faba beans.

She explains, “I cook it as a stew or boiled beans. For lunch and dinner, my family eats the stew, which is called shiro wat, a mixture of faba beans and soya beans.”

Faba beans have numerous benefits. Mrs. Kebede says: “For many years, people in my area have believed that faba bean can ensure that a baby is born healthy and in good physical condition. They make sure that pregnant women eat boiled faba beans.” Because faba beans contain a large amount of a vitamin called folate, pregnant women who eat the beans, especially early in pregnancy, have lower rates of certain types of birth defects. 

Teshome Biru is a farmer from Bilbilo rural area in Ticho wereda who has also experienced the nutritional benefit of faba beans. The 53-year-old father of eight says his family eats faba beans twice a day.

Mr. Biru produces 1.5 tonnes of faba beans a year, and his family consumes at least 400 kilograms of this. He says, “My wife usually prepares a stew of maize and boiled faba beans.”

He says that faba bean is the family’s staple food and is rich in protein. He adds, “We consider it as a direct substitute for meat.”    

Mr. Biru says that, apart from its nutritional benefits, faba beans help farmers improve soil fertility. Nodules on the roots of leguminous plants like faba beans can incorporate or “fix” nitrogen from the atmosphere, increasing its concentration in the soil.

Aliyi Robsa is a nutritionist at Kulumsa Agricultural Research Centre. He says that faba bean is consumed by many households in Ethiopia because it is rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals such as calcium and phosphorus.

He adds, “Faba bean is eaten at least three times per week in many homes in Ethiopia. Its consumption is increasing and its price as well.”

Asnakech Tekalegn is the national coordinator of faba beans in Ethiopia. He says, “I don’t know how many Ethiopian pregnant women know the exact nutritional benefits of faba beans, but the market tells you because the consumption of faba beans is increasing.”

Because of its numerous nutritional benefits, Mrs. Kebede grows faba beans on one hectare of her family’s four-hectare farm. She says, “On average, I harvest about four tonnes of faba beans in a year, and out of this, 1.5 tonnes is consumed by my family as part of our meals.”

This resource was supported with the aid of a grant from The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ) implementing the Green Innovation Centre project.

Photo: Vegetables are displayed for sale at a busy market near Morogoro, Tanzania on May 28, 2014.