At first glance, Rosine Faray Feza does not fit the profile of the typical rural farmer in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Well-educated and widely travelled, Rosine is seemingly more suited to a corporate boardroom than a farming field. But Rosine is, indeed, a farmer in the DRC’s eastern province of Bukavu, and she is relishing it.
In 2013, having recently returned to her native country from decades of living abroad, Rosine was invited by friends to attend an agricultural fair organized in a nearby high school. At the fair, Rosine encountered biofortified crops for the first time and she was immediately intrigued.
“HarvestPlus had exhibited seeds of high-iron beans and other biofortified products,” she recalls. “I hadn’t heard about these fascinating new varieties before, so I quickly went over to get more information about them, and to find out how I could access the seeds.”
As a mother and a grandmother, Rosine instinctively understood the value of biofortified crops: they would provide better nutrition and health to families. But there was an enticing bonus—the iron beans promised bountiful harvests.
At the next planting season, Rosine was ready with the iron bean seeds she had received. "I planted the 80 kilograms I got over one hectare. You can imagine my delighted surprise at harvest time when the bean yields reached 1,400 kilograms!” she exclaims. “To put that in perspective, the best we could expect from planting 100 kilograms of the non-biofortified beans that we previously grew was 400-500 kilograms.”
Rosine’s decision to adopt iron beans had paid off generously, and she embarked on sharing and promoting the beans as widely as she could among neighbors and the farm laborers she employs. She has become a local champion of the crop in her village of Murhesa. And, even though her children and grandchildren currently still live abroad, Rosine says she ships iron bean grain to them regularly so that they, too, can experience the nutritional benefits of the crop.
Having witnessed the success of iron beans, Rosine has been quick to adopt other biofortified crops whenever they have become available. She now also grows vitamin A-biofortified “orange” maize and “yellow” cassava. Rosine’s bold embrace of the new crops is inspiring more farming households in her village to follow suit.
**The author is a Communications Specialist with HarvestPlus-DRC