I entered Kabeza Market in Kigali, looking for Mukampabuka Placidie. I found her at her stand busy weighing iron beans to sell to her clients. Placidie has retailed high-iron beans in Kabeza Market since 2012. She enumerates health benefits of eating biofortified iron beans with the accuracy of a trained nutritionist.
“Iron beans are especially good for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, children and any person recovering from an illness to consume, because they increase the number of healthy red blood cells in the body,” she said. “Consumers, especially my clients, like the beans.” Red blood cells need iron to carry oxygen around the body. Poor diets lacking in iron are a major cause of anemia.
Her ability to translate the health benefits of her products is useful, as nutrition education remains low among Rwandese. Biofortified beans are not easily distinguishable from conventional beans in the local market. HarvestPlus works with various partners to educate farmers and consumers on specific characteristics including shape, color, size and nutritional value to allow better identification and adoption of biofortified varieties.
The 53-year-old mother was specially trained by HarvestPlus to exclusively sell high-iron beans and act as the focal point in urban markets, assuring consumers seeking biofortified varieties for their health impacts of their authenticity.
“I was selling iron beans before without noticing because I did not know how to identify them,” Placidie said. “When I learned how to distinguish their unique size and shape and about their nutritional value, I started selling them alone and the client flow has grown ever since.”
Placidie’s life today is a stark contrast from what it was five years ago. Her family worked tirelessly to find enough food and ensure other basic needs were met. Everything changed the day she was introduced to differentiate and sell nutritious high-iron beans to consumers.
“As a trader, my cash flow increased when I started selling iron beans and I have been able to take up a long-term bank loan and service it with ease to expand the business and improve our home,” she said.
Thanks to her increased profits, she has been able to educate each of her five children. The youngest graduates from university next year.
Known in the market as Mama Egide, Placidie sponsors a prime-time advertisement of iron beans on the radio to popularize consumption of the beans among fellow market vendors and consumers. As a result, her sales have maintained an upward trend, topping 50 kgs (110 pounds) of beans per day.
“Consumers like the beans; two pregnant women came back to thank me for the advice and the beans after their doctors confirmed that blood iron levels that were low had increased to normal just after adopting and consuming iron beans for about three months,” she said.
Placidie is so passionate about iron beans that she exclusively cooks them at home. She even cooks some to sell to customers, because she wants everyone to taste this nutritious bean variety and benefit as she has from adopting them.