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Classified as one of the areas with high rates of malnutrition (Iron deficiency and anemia), the Karamoja subregion, situated in Northern Eastern Uganda and comprising of Kotido, Kaabongo, Karenga, Nabilatuk, Abim, Moroto, Napaka, Amudat, and Nakapiripirit districts, Karamoja experiences massive food insecurity and climate shocks like recurring droughts, flash floods, and prolonged dry spells. Karamoja is also constrained by cattle raiding, poor infrastructure, limited access to agricultural inputs, a limited market for produce and other essential products and services necessary for social and economic development. The result is a food-deficient region, leading to high malnutrition among children and women.

Eating Iron Rich Beans (IRB) frequently can prevent Iron deficiency anemia by providing up to 80% of the needed daily Iron. Local farmers like the Kaabong Women Farmer’s Association are boosting community nutrition and earning money by growing and selling the highly demanded and nutritious IRB.

In 2021, the Feed the Future Uganda Inclusive Agricultural Markets (FtF IAM) Activity’s scoping studies identified a growing demand for quality beans, especially the varieties rich in Iron such as NARO Bean 1 and NARO Bean 11 in Karamoja. The study findings informed a market opportunity for suppliers of IRB seed in Karamoja. The Activity co-invested with 16 IRB seed multipliers (farmer groups) to develop a practical, commercially viable, cost-effective, and transparent bean seed system for Karamoja. FtF IAM further strengthened commercial linkages between seed multipliers, market actors, local government officials, and the National Agriculture Research Organization (NARO), which provided seed and trained farmers on good agricultural practices. At the first attempt of planting IRB during seasons A and B of 2021, farmers suffered massive losses due to the prolonged drought and heavy rainfalls that hit the region. Despite the setback, the farmers continued to invest in IRB seeds, drawing learnings from their past experiences. The farmers’ persistence is motivated by the availability of a ready market and the high nutrition value of the beans.

The farmers’ persistence is beginning to pay off. Last season (season B of 2022), Santina Namoyi, a farmer affiliated to the Kaabong Women’s Farmers’ Group harvested 10MT of IRB and has so far sold 4MT to Biafra Child and Youth Development Center, a Non-Government Organization that supports children and earned UGX. 16 million (est.$4,300). “They prefer my beans and offer me a good price because the beans are of good quality and have a high nutritional value.” Commented Santina Namoyi. The price of IRB is slightly higher than the price of ordinary beans (4,000 UGX/kg vs. 3,000 UGX/kg). Lydia, the Chairperson of the Kaabong Women Association sold 5.5 tons of IRB to World Food Program and earned UGX. 24,000,000 (est.$6400) Selling each kg at UGX. 4,500. “I’m happy that I did not give up on growing these beans because they have a very high demand from big markets like WFP and the local people because of their nutrition benefit, especially to children and pregnant women.” Said Lydia with a big smile. The farmers are using the earned money to take care of their family needs like school fees, medication, housing, and saving some to invest in the next season. Lydia expressed with gratitude, “I thank Feed the Future for promoting the Iron Rich Beans in Karamoja because it is a big business opportunity for farmers like me to make some good money.”

Author: Dorothy Nabatanzi for FtF IAM.

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