Nairobi, KNA by Wangari Ndirangu
The Kenya Agricultural Research and Livestock Organization (KALRO) has produced pre-cooked beans which take only 15 minutes to prepare through value addition.
Dr. David Karanja, a scientist from KALRO Katumani in Machakos, says the new pre-cooked beans are suitable for both urban and rural populations, and that they will see improved food and nutrition security, as well as enhance conservation of the natural resources.
“By adding value to raw beans through the development of processed products, value chain actors can harness the power of beans to create more jobs, increase consumption, and raise incomes”, he emphasized.
Dr. Karanja explained that the precooked bean project was started after they found out that destruction of trees for charcoal and firewood was one major development issue that needed to be addressed.
The project is being piloted in Kenya (Makueni and Homabay) and Uganda, and later to be embraced in other countries is funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR). it is expected that this will help to scale up supply and utilization of precooked beans to boost food and nutrition security, and help boost environmental conservation in East Africa.
Dr. Karanja said from the pilot projects in the two countries, they have tested 47 bean varieties to determine the ones that would be suitable for pre-cooking and through the cook ability study, they came up with 12 varieties – 4 from Kenya and 8 from Uganda that can be precooked.
He explained that currently, two private firms, Smart Logistics from Machakos County in Kenya and Lasting Solution based in Uganda and operating in western Kenya are engaged in the processing of the precooked beans for consumption
“The precooked quick to cook processed beans take less than 15 minutes for consumers to prepare, while the ready to eat snacks, especially for children, are healthy as they contain 60 percent bean,” Dr. Karanja said.
For the town dwellers and bachelors who find fuel expensive and also time consuming in preparing beans, Dr. Karanja said the precooked bean meal will only need to be soaked in boiled water for 15 minutes and its ready for eating.
Dr. Karanja further explained that the studies had shown that the precooked beans do not need any refrigeration as can be stored for three years without any additives.
“The advantage of the precooked bean meal compared to wet or canned beans, which require refrigeration is that they can be stored for three years and without any additives and not get spoilt”, he said
Dr. Karanja noted that the Country is at a stage where there is need to scale up the precooked beans so that farmers can grow the varieties for commercial purposes.
He said the government in 2012 passed a law that demanded that all milling companies fortify their flour, but regretted noting that most farmers in the rural areas have not done it. he added, now with the precooked beans, they can employ the technique and further get income through commercialisation of the beans to improve their living standards including their nutrition.
The four varieties for precooked are KAT B1, Nyota, Angaza and Rose coco beans, which can be found in Seed companies.
A bean farmer from Machakos, Angelica Wambua, said apart from selling other bean varieties, she had found another variety of the precooked bean that will not only see her make money through direct sales, but will lessen the time for her as she prepares the meal for her family.
“Once I come out from the farm, tired and also waiting to do other house chores, I just dip the beans in the hot water for 15 minutes and we are good to eat, unlike before when it used to take 3 hours to boil our beans”, she said
Angelica added that she had also learnt that one can prepare other meals such as porridge, chapati and cakes using the same bean meal, noting with high rate of diabetes, more people will consume the precooked beans.
Another Makueni bean farmer, Benson Musau, said called on the government to help spread the new bean variety across the country saying it is exciting to note that farmers can value add on beans.
“We have learned that the new technology will help women and families to cook beans with less time, make porridge and other products”, he said
The new technology Musau added will see bean farmers like him benefit as they will be selling directly to the processors and rid of brokers who offer poor prices.
Paul Matheka, another farmer from Mua area said the precooked beans, such as the KAT B1 will now have farmers in his group plant as a group and be able to sell directly to the private processors and fetch them good money.
“Farmers will also stop cutting trees for charcoal, since we have learnt that these beans are taking less time to cook”, he said
The overall goal of pre-cooked beans project is to contribute to food security, income generation, and conservation of the environment, which can be achieved through increasing production and supply of beans suitable for pre-cooked processing, developing pre-cooked bean products, promoting their consumption and creating innovation platforms in the region.
Another focus in the project is on public-private partnership that will support equitable participation of women who are mostly the growers of the bean, and also youth who can be equipped to become the driving force of the project through value addition.