Rwandan bean farmer (Photo: N. Palmer/CIAT)

Farmers need to know that they are planting the best seeds to grow the best crops. But how do farmers in rural Africa make this important decision if up-to-date information is hard to come by? In Rwanda and other African countries, rural farmers gather around their radios to learn about weather conditions, market prices, and new farming innovations.

That’s why HarvestPlus partnered with Agfax Radio, a station produced by African journalists with a focus on rural livelihoods and farming, to spread the word about nutrient-rich staple crops across radio waves throughout rural Africa. Journalists examined the effect that nutrient-rich crops in Zambia, Nigeria, Uganda, and Rwanda can have on their local communities, both nutritionally and economically, with perspectives from scientists, women’s groups, and farmers.

Beans are one of the most commonly consumed staple crops in Rwanda and the primary source of dietary protein in the country, according to the Rwandan Agricultural Research Institute. But Rwandans need more than protein—they also need micronutrients such as iron and zinc, which are essential to good health. In fact, an estimated 38% of children under five and 17% of non-pregnant women in Rwanda are anemic, a condition that most often results from a diet lacking in iron-rich foods.

Iron-rich foods are often too expensive or not accessible for the average Rwandan farmer. In response, HarvestPlus and its partners used traditional breeding methods to grow a bean that contains higher levels of iron compared to commonly grown varieties. The high-iron bean, which will be released later this year, is part of a global strategy to breed more nutritious staple crops in order to reduce malnutrition around the world.

Agfax Radio’s story on iron-rich beans reached local farmers in remote areas of Rwanda with information about the agronomic and nutritional benefits of these new varieties. The story featured interviews with farmers who are currently growing iron-rich beans. One farmer, Celestine Nzabarirwa, told listeners, “Last season I grew biofortified beans and my production from my field was a lot compared to the local varieties that I had been using…I will also encourage my neighbors to grow biofortified beans, which will help to improve their health when they consume them.”

Other broadcasts in the series feature vitamin A maize in Zambia, vitamin A orange sweet potato in Uganda, and vitamin A cassava in Nigeria.

Visit the links below to listen online or download the audio files and transcripts from the broadcasts:

Iron-rich Beans to Combat Anaemia

Yellow Cassava for Extra Vitamin A

Vitamin A to Fight Hidden Hunger

Orange Sweet Potato for Vitamin A