The Ethiopia Bean Research Programme led by the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) has won the country’s highest scientific award – the Gold medal and Cup – for the impact of its bean research, which has transformed the lives of millions of farmers.
The National Common Bean Research Team of EIAR, based at Melkassa Agricultural Research Center was awarded the Gold Medal and Cup at the 7th Science, Technology and Innovation awards organized by the Ministry of Science and Technology of Ethiopia.
The award, presented by Ethiopian Prime Minster H.E. Hailemariam Desalegn, was given for outstanding research in common bean production, productivity and marketing through generation and promotion of common bean varieties for food security and export to the international market.
Dr. Berhanu Amsalu Fenta, Coordinator of the National Lowland Pulses Research Program who accepted the award on behalf of the Ethiopian Bean Research Programme, thanked CIAT, the Pan-Africa Bean Research Alliance (PABRA) and the Tropical Legumes projects (II and III) led by CGIAR center ICRISAT.
In addition, he thanked the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other long term donors such as the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, USAID and Global Affairs Canada, for their technical and financial support to facilitate bean improvement and promotion.
The commitment of the Ethiopian government to support the national bean programme was key to enhancing bean research in the country, he said, without which, “we couldn’t reach this stage. Thus, I would like to say this award is for all of us.” He noted that the award will drive momentum to promote bean research to a higher level.
Dr. Robin Buruchara, Director of PABRA, of which the Ethiopian Bean Research Programme is a member, said: “This is excellent news and highlights how research, through the power of partnerships, can drive change at every level of society. The relationships between farmers, researchers, exporters and other valuable members of the bean value chain in Ethiopia ensure that high-quality bean varieties are available for farmers to grow and companies to export.”
For example, Ethiopia’s researchers have transformed the white pea bean from a neglected staple into a cash crop in Ethiopia – boosting exports from around $8 million in 2004 to more than $130 million in 2015. The transformation started in 2004. Since then access to quality seed of improved varieties has risen from 20 percent of farmers to 75 percent in 2014 while national bean yield has increased from 0.7 to 1.4 tons per hectare.
The white pea bean grain provides income for around 2 million smallholder farmers, with thousands more employed in post-harvest processing of the beans for export. Farmers can usually sell it for three times more income than that from other crops like maize, and can also rely on beans as a source of nutrients in the local diet.
Frequent engagement and involvement of the private sector – for example the company Agricultural Commodity Supplies (ACOS) – has been central to the white pea bean’s transformation. And now, better bean varieties, bred and released by EIAR in partnership with the PABRA network, are also more tolerant to drought, pests and diseases.
Coordinator of the Eastern and Central Africa Bean Research Network and Seed Systems Specialist of CIAT, Jean-Claude Rubyogo, said: “The wider bean research community is proud to be associated with the excellent achievements of EIAR, especially because the impact we see is the direct result of research tested and deployed across Ethiopia. The lessons learned are already being expanded to other countries of PABRA.”
Dr. Debisi Araba, CIAT’s Regional Director for Africa, added: “This highest achievement by bean researchers at EIAR is evidence that research can drive agricultural growth and economic opportunities for millions of farmers, linking farmers and business in a powerful partnership for transformation across Africa.”
The 7th Science, Technology and Innovation awards took place on November 19th, 2016 in Addis Ababa. Dr. Berhanu, who received the award on behalf of EIAR, is a former PhD student supported by CIAT.