It is early morning as we set off from Kampala with a team of scientists from the National Crop Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI), Namulonge going to Mubende District on a fact finding visit, to establish how farmers who have been massively sensitised about growing iron-rich Naro bean varieties are progressing.

The cool breeze from the giant trees slaps our faces as we enter the serene ambience of Bwerenga a little known village in Kasanda Township in Mubende District.

John Kiyingi, 38, is tending to his bean garden when we arrive in Bwerenga village off Kasanda Township in Mubende District. He is shortly joined by his wife Florence Nakanwaji.

On their small farm which is 500m away from the homestead in small portions are also maize, cassava, soybean, potatoes, tree tomatoes, carrots and coffee.

How they started
The crops, which Kiyingi grows with 20 other members of his group on small farms spread across the village.
The farmer takes Seeds of Gold through his story on how he became a farmer and progressed in the sector.

“I have been in this sector since 2005. Previously I was trading in agricultural produce such as coffee and maize but I witnessed how farmers were reaping better income. This prompted me to engage in practical farming. I started by growing maize on large scale but in 2016 when a team of scientists from Naro came to sensitise us about the importance of growing iron-rich bean varieties, I quickly ventured into growing the same and I do not regret my decision,” Kiyingi narrates.

Benefits
Kiyingi has two wives and 15 children all of school going age and he is capable of paying their fees from farm proceeds. He has purchased a plot of land from the township and is planning to construct commercial houses for rent.
“I urge people who are loitering in the village to join our team and engage in farming because it is a lucrative business. Imagine within a period of three months, one is able to earn Shs5m,” he said.

Kiyingi and other farmers in the village are into organised groups. He belongs to Kamukamu Farmers’ Association comprising of about 200,000 members. Initially they were only 20 but the number has since surged.

Harvesting
The team harvests beans which is bulked in a joint store and sold to the seed company as bulk. The proceeds are divided according to how many kilogrammes a farmer has harvested.

Kiyingi’s wife narrates that upon becoming a member of the family, she used to participate in most of the farming activities because her husband was taken up by trade business.

They were mainly concentrating on growing maize but when the Naro team came on ground and farmers were offered seeds which they could pay for upon harvest, they had trust in the group and the farming system changed drastically.
To her, growing beans is now a priority because it has readily available market since the value chain is so clear meaning one cannot go wrong with it.

It is on high demand due to its nutritional value. Farmers sell 1kg of beans at Shs2,000.
She has managed to purchase a plot of land where she has constructed houses for rent out of which she gets about Shs2m. It is an additional income which helps her pay school fees for her five children.

Their coffee farm is on a one-acre plot of land and the beans take majority of the land share about 4-5 acres.
She encourages women in the village to actively participate in bean growing because it is a profitable venture.

Naro’s input
Isaac Mugaga, a research assistant at NaCRRI in the beans programme, explains that in 2015, the institute obtained funding from International Development Research Centre (IDRC) to be implemented jointly with Kenya Agricultural & Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO).

In Uganda, the project is implemented in 10 districts in central Uganda mainly in Masaka and Mubende regions.
At the initial stage, farmers were able to obtain 500 kilogrammes of bean seed and this has increased to six tonnes because the number of farmers growing beans has increased tremendously.

The aim was to grow bean varieties rich in iron and zinc in a bid to fight malnutrition among pregnant mothers and infant children.

This led to implementation of precooked beans being processed in Uganda.
The team organised farmers to be in the value chain comprising of the aggregator, seed provider and produce buyer then the processor. This is to say farmers are producing for a known market.

The Naro team is satisfied with their work because farmers’ income has increased, production of beans in the country has also improved and on-farm jobs have been created for the people in the concerned districts.
However for the precooked processing to proceed, the factory requires about 100,000 tonnes of beans per year but at the moment the production is less than that.

Turning point
This was an eye opener to many farmers in this village and a turning point in improving their livelihoods because the Naro value chain modal involves agronomists providing technical knowledge, a seed company which provides seed and other inputs to the farmers on credit and recovers the same after harvesting when purchasing produce from them.
This means there is ready market for farmers’ produce making it a lucrative business.

Kiyingi’s family owns more than 10 acres of land which is apportioned for growing beans, maize, sweet potatoes and coffee.

Kiyingi and other farmers are growing seed varieties namely Narobean1, Nabe 4, 14 and 19 but most farmers are concentrating on Naro bean1 which is rich in Iron and zinc.

Sedo Seed Company provides them with seed and purchases their produce during harvest.
“We were trained to grow beans in lines. On an acre, I use 25 kilogrammes of seed for planting. It is important to observe pest and disease infection and spray using appropriate chemical to maintain the flowers in order to get high yield. Previously I was growing open pollinated varieties where I could harvest 260 kilogrammes per acre but now I am able to harvest eight bags about 1,040 kilogrammes per acre.

My income has improved a great deal because I am capable of earning Shs5m per season from sale of beans and about Shs2m from other crops I am growing,” says Kiyingi.