As a part of the impact evaluation of HarvestPlus’ work in Zambia, an evaluation team visited two seed companies—AfriSeed and ZamSeeds, major players in the Zambian seed industry. The objective of the visit was to understand the current market share of iron beans, their projected future, and the key drivers and barriers for growth. Notably, both companies are significant producers of biofortified vitamin A maize (VAM) and iron beans (Mbereshi) in Zambia. Both marketing teams observed a shift in the demand for iron beans, commanding a remarkable 65 percent and 70 percent share of the total commercial common bean seed at AfriSeed and ZamSeeds, respectively, boding well for the growing popularity and acceptance of these nutrient-enriched beans, as well as the impact of demand creation activities executed by HarvestPlus and its partners.

For example, HarvestPlus successfully trained more than 300,000 households across 17 districts in Zambia, providing training guides, posters, documentaries, and orange maize and iron bean (Mbereshi) seeds through the Scaling Up Nutrition Technical Assistance (SUN TA) project funded by Global Affairs Canada in 2021. Additionally, the project enhanced the capacity of the Ministry of Community Development and Social Services (MoCDSS) provincial and district staff through training and provision of materials for countrywide dissemination. 

Further, biofortified seeds were distributed to 17 districts in Lusaka, Southern, Eastern, Central, Copperbelt, Northern, Luapula, and Northwestern Provinces as part of the 1,000 critical days’ children program celebrations. Kamano Seed company provided the seeds to establish 21 farmer training demonstration plots across 21 districts, facilitating effective training and learning by technical staff and farmers.

Representatives from both seed companies emphasized that the Government of Zambia and its development partners were the primary groups driving the increase in demand of iron bean seeds. The ripple effect is evident: iron beans are dominating bean cultivation in Zambia, suggesting a communal awareness of their nutritional value and high yield potential. AfriSeed and ZamSeeds both predict an even higher market share for iron bean Mbereshi variety. While the projections are exciting, the visited seed companies believe that timely communication of the required iron bean seed quantities from Government and development partners could play a pivotal role for their planning especially with regards to seed multiplication.

The increasing prominence of iron beans in Zambia serves as a testament to the fruitful collaboration between HarvestPlus and the public and private sector entities. This compelling story highlights the tangible impact that iron beans are having on both the nutritional landscape and the commercial success of key players in the seed industry. In Zambia, a total of 11 varieties of orange maize, four varieties of orange fleshed sweet potato, and one variety of iron beans, have been released since 2012, thanks to the collaborative efforts of HarvestPlus, Alliance-Bioversity-CIAT, the International Potato Institute (CIP), and the government of Zambia. As of the end of 2022, an estimated 287,000 farmers were growing iron beans in Zambia.