Case study 1: Rwanda’s High-Iron Beans

Better nutrition from High-Iron Beans. Credit HarvestPlus

Better nutrition from High-Iron Beans. Credit HarvestPlus

In 2010, the Rwandan government introduced 4 high-iron biofortified varieties of bean. This was followed by a second wave in 2012, developed by the Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB), the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and HarvestPlus.[1] In 2012, 38% of Rwandan children under five and 17% of adult women were iron deficient.[2] By 2014, more than 270,000 households or 15% of farmers were growing and eating the biofortified beans.[3] These beans contain 14% more iron than commonly grown varieties.[4] Given that Rwandans eat on average 200g of beans per day, the iron beans can provide 45% of their daily requirement of iron. HarvestPlus aims to continue to enrich their beans, with the goal of providing 60% of daily iron needs. The beans are also bred to be high yielding, virus resistant and heat tolerant.[5]

Preliminary evidence shows that consumption of iron fortified beans can increase iron status in iron-depleted Rwandan women. For example, iron-depleted female university students showed a significant increase in haemoglobin (by 3.5g/L) and total body iron (up by 0.45mg/Kg) after consuming biofortified beans for 4.5 months.[6] HarvestPlus also released iron beans in the Democratic Republic of Congo where they are being planted by 175,000 households[7] and in Uganda, where vitamin A enriched orange-fleshed sweet potato is already widely produced and consumed.[8]

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