Public-private partnerships to scale up precooked beans
The first phase of the precooked beans project developed a ready-to-eat bean snack and an easy-to-cook bean product that significantly reduced traditional bean cooking time from 2 hours to 15 minutes. These innovations decreased the amount of firewood and charcoal required to cook the beans (contributing to environmental conservation) and they are transforming the profitability of the dry bean market.
Through a public-private partnerships approach, the second phase of this initiative seeks to scale up the production of 15 biofortified bean varieties and increase the use of the precooked bean products. As the main bean producers and primary food providers in small-scale farming households, women farmers in central Uganda and the Lake Basin and eastern regions of Kenya are expected to adopt and promote precooked bean processing.
Scaling seed access
Developed in partnership with national research centres, private seed companies, agricultural input dealers, and grain buyers, the project is testing seed delivery models to scale access to the improved bean seed. Gender-responsive models intend to enable farmers, especially women, to access these early-maturing seeds, which produce between 1,800-2,500 kg/ha (as opposed to traditional and older released varieties that yield 500-800 kg/ha).
Through the project’s Agro-Dealership delivery model, farmers buy seed directly from seed merchants rather than recycling their own home-saved seeds from previous seasons. The Revolving Seed Model, on the other hand, involves an initial seed loan to the farmer who pays back twice the amount of multiplied seed at harvest. The seed supplier collects the multiplied seed, which is redistributed to two other beneficiaries who then follow the same seed payment model.
Lastly, the Seed Credit Model allows the beneficiaries to pay the seed supplier after selling their produce. This model is particularly beneficial for women, who would not be able to afford the fresh seed prior to receiving income from their produce sales. From November 2018 to 2019, the gender-responsive seed credit models enabled women farmers, men, and young farmers to access 32,124 kg of improved seeds.
Testing digital-based and gender-responsive finance
Through another public-private partnership involving the MasterCard Foundation, farmer registration and produce payments are being digitized through a mobile app called the Mastercard Farmer Network. The app helps to ensure that the produce owner receives payment for their grain delivery by transferring payments to registered members only. This is particularly important for women farmers who, if paid in cash, would only be able to access their fee through their husbands and not directly. Women are also encouraged to open mobile money accounts or bank accounts in their own names.
Since the launch of the app in November 2018, the project has recruited and trained 52 village enterprise agents, mostly youths (60%). Fifteen of these agents received android phones to carry out transactions with the farmers. To date, with the support of village enterprise agents, 18,466 farmers (7,572 men and 10,894 women) are registered with the Mastercard Farmer Network to enhance digital payments. A total of CA$137,000 was traded in beans through the platform.
Deepening the customer base and product line
The project carried out sensitization activities on the optimal processing and nutritional qualities of bean varieties suitable for precooked bean products. This attracted new customers in Kenya, including county governments and non-governmental organizations who have taken a keen interest in five varieties (KATX56, KAT B1, Nyota, Faida and Angaza). In Machakos county, for example, a non-governmental organization purchased 4.8 tonnes of Nyota bean, while the county government bought 18 tonnes of KATX56 to supply to farmers during the long rainy season of 2020.
Another new market outlet for the raw grains emerged through the private company Smart Logistics. The bean aggregator-turned-processor constructed a precooking bean processing plant at their grain bulking centre in Machakos county. In February 2020, Smart Logistics purchased 11 tonnes of beans from farmer groups, generating a total revenue of CA$10,100. The company also broadened their precooked bean product range to include the Keroma snack bar (60% bean flour, 40% pearl millet) and Frejols (100% pre-cooked bean flour), which are supplied to roadside kiosks, shops, and industrial workers in Kenya.
A private partner in the project from the start, Lasting Solutions Ltd has also been processing beans by purchasing the grain directly from farmers in both Kenya and Uganda. The company currently supplies the processed precooked bean products to three hospitals, five supermarkets, 11 schools, 12 small food kiosks, and 37 roadside food vendors in Kenya. Lasting Solutions Ltd is developing their product range and introduced “chunks”, a precooked bean variant that can be used to produce bread and flour. Prior to its certification by the Kenya Bureau of Standards, the product is being tested by potential users, including Ugandan and Kenyan confectionary companies.