Drought-Resistant White Beans for Smallholder Farmers

Photo credit: Food Tank

The drought in Ethiopia is threatening the livelihoods of smallholder farmers who grow 10 percent of the world’s white beans.

Drought-Resistant White Beans Bring Hope to Smallholder Farmers in Ethiopia

Ethiopia is one of the world’s largest exporters of white beans, most commonly used to make baked beans. But, severe drought in the country is threatening bean production and the livelihoods of the smallholder farmers who are responsible for the majority of the white bean crop. Food Tank interviewed researchers from the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) who wrote a recent report on this crisis and on deploying a new drought-resilient bean variety to Ethiopia.

Food Tank (FT): The drought in Ethiopia has cut yields of beans by 30 percent. Can you explain the effect this percentage has on both the economy and food production?

Georgina Smith (GS): This percentage is the estimated loss for smallholder farmers in terms of their yield. Around three million smallholder farmers in Ethiopia rely on white pea bean sales to buy food and cover other costs, like school fees. In terms of the overall impact on the economy, it is too early to tell. White pea beans are not Ethiopia’s main export, but they are worth more than US$90 million per year. In terms of the impact on food production, most of the white pea beans are not consumed domestically – their value is in the export price – but domestic consumption is increasing.

FT: Ethiopia accounts for about 10 percent of the global supply of white beans. What is the ripple effect this drought has had on the rest of the world?

GS: The threat is mostly to smallholder farmers in Ethiopia, who risk their income from the beans. If the total volume of beans for canning goes down, companies who depend on Ethiopia for their bean supply will be at risk.

According to Eliud Birachi, an International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) market economist working with the Pan-African Bean Research Alliance (PABRA), said tackling climate-related issues is critical given rising demand for the beans.

Read the full article: Food Tank


Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.