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Climate-Smart Seeds Cultivate Hope for Kenya’s Agricultural Future

Scientists from the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) and the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT have collaborated to develop climate-smart beans, in a bid to combat the challenges posed by climate change and ensure food security.

These beans, named “Nyota,” meaning “star” in Kiswahili, have emerged as a beacon of hope for Kenya’s agricultural landscape.

The development of Nyota beans marks a significant milestone in agricultural resilience, offering tailored solutions to Kenya’s diverse climatic conditions. 

Through a meticulous breeding process led by David Karanja, a bean breeder and National Coordinator for Grains and Legumes at KALRO, these beans exhibit traits such as drought tolerance, heat resistance, and high levels of essential nutrients like iron and zinc.

Kenya’s agricultural terrain, characterized by arid lowlands and cold, dry highlands, presents unique challenges. The focus on developing beans that can withstand drought is paramount, ensuring that crops can mature within a short period to escape the effects of water scarcity.

Josephine Syanda, a research scientist at KALRO, highlights the market-driven approach to breeding, considering consumer preferences and cooking times. Faster cooking times not only reduce fuel costs but also contribute to the economic viability of farming.

Farmers like Benson Gitonga have embraced Nyota beans, witnessing significant increases in yields and profitability. Gitonga reports harvesting 9 to 12 bags per acre, compared to 5 to 7 bags with other varieties. The superior quality of Nyota beans fetches higher prices in the market and appeals to consumers due to its low flatulence levels.

However, challenges persist, including disease pressures and the soaring demand for seeds outpacing supply. To address this, KALRO has licensed several seed companies to produce and market Nyota seeds. While formal channels provide quality assurance, critics raise concerns about limiting farmers’ access to indigenous seeds, perpetuating dependency on commercially owned seeds.

Despite these challenges, proponents of climate-smart seeds emphasize the importance of innovation in breeding resilient varieties to safeguard food security. 

By fostering collaboration between scientists, farmers, and policymakers, initiatives like Nyota beans offer a ray of hope for a more sustainable and resilient agricultural future in Kenya.

With the adoption of climate-smart seeds, Kenya aims to bolster national bean production and meet the growing demand for nutritious crops, ensuring a brighter future for farmers and consumers alike.

Additional Source: AfricaNews

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