George William Kaweesa wakes up early to uproot weeds and inspect the beans in his field before the sun rises. He walks carefully around his farm to avoid knocking the flowers off the bean plants because that would reduce the yield.
Mr. Kaweesa says: “I prefer growing this variety of beans because it matures early. It takes less than three months for me to harvest. I make sure that I take advantage of this by growing the beans in both rainy seasons each year.”
Mr. Kaweesa grows his beans on a one-acre piece of land in Kambugu village, in the Kiboga district of Uganda. He says the leafy green beans with white flowers are the NARO Bean 1 variety.
He adds, “It is a very different variety from the traditional varieties that many farmers in the country grow.”
The variety is high-yielding, quick to mature, and rich in nutrients such as iron and zinc. A local non-governmental organization introduced it to Ugandan farmers in 2017, and Mr. Kaweesa has been growing it for three years.
He explains: “In the past, I mainly grew traditional varieties of beans for food. But when I learned that the new NARO Bean 1 variety is … [a] profitable crop, I started growing it because I am able to plant it and harvest twice a year.”
Jennifer Nakaye also lives in Kiboga district and grows NARO Bean 1. Ms. Nakaye says: “In the past, I grew the ordinary varieties of beans that never yielded enough to feed my family and I was not able to sell the beans to find money because of low yields.”
She adds: “These old traditional varieties take long to mature and the yield is heavily affected by droughts or when there is too much rain. Unlike these local varieties, NARO Bean 1 is good because it helps improve yields and farmers’ income. We are able now to grow enough for sale and spare some for family consumption.”
Ms. Nakaye harvests over 4,000 kilograms of beans a year from her 1.6 acres of land. She says, “I now earn around 8,000,000 Ugandan shillings (about US $1,300) from bean farming.”any farmers in the area are now selling this new variety of beans to support their families.
Mr. Kaweesa says he is happy because he just sold several bags from his recent harvest, and he’s now passing the knowledge onto others. He says, “I visit other farmers in my village to teach them how to grow the new variety of beans, and how to source the seed from the suppliers.”
With the money he made from selling beans, Mr. Kaweesa bought a small plot of land in Kiboga town in the western region of Uganda, where he wants to establish a farm exclusively for beans.
He says: “When I relied for maize farming as a main source of income, the price per kilogram was between 100 to 200 Ugandan shillings (US$0.03 to US$0.05). But the beans now sell for not less than 2,000 Ugandan shillings per kilogram (US$0.53).”
He adds, “That’s the good thing with the improved variety of beans. I have managed to pay my children’s school fees and take care of my children without any difficulties.”
Photo: NARO beans. Credit: NARO-NaCRRI-Namulonge.