When Matilde Nyirasoni first started growing iron beans three years ago, she had no idea that the variety would come to occupy such a prominent place in her life. At the time, Matilde grew potatoes, maize, millet, and beans on her eight-hectare farmland in the northern Rwandan district of Gicumbi. Matilde still grows all these crops today, but she now devotes more than one-third of her entire farmland to iron beans alone.
Matilde is not alone in her enthusiastic embrace of iron beans. Nearly half a million Rwandan farming households have grown at least one high-iron bean variety since the crop was first introduced seven years ago.
“We no longer eat other types of beans at home. For us, it’s iron beans or no beans,” Matilde says proudly. “My great satisfaction as a mother is in seeing my children and family eating healthy.”
Matilde has good reason to be enthusiastic about iron beans. This biofortified crop has proven to improve nutrition in Rwanda, and Matilda wants as many Rwandans as possible to enjoy the crop’s benefits. That is why she has become a seed multiplier. Her work ensures a ready supply of iron beans for formal distributors and other farmers interested in the variety.
“I feel a big responsibility to help Rwandan farmers and consumers to achieve a healthier life,” says Matilda. “So, I multiply the iron beans in bulk, which are later disseminated to other households to grow and eat. That is something I am always excited to do. It feels really good to know that you are helping to improve people’s lives.”
Matilde and the Rwandan farmers growing iron beans are reaping other benefits. The crop is impressively high yielding, giving farmers unprecedented harvests. For Matilde, this means she can bank on more than four metric tons of harvests from her three hectares of iron beans.
The high yields allow Matilde to sell the produce at the local market and make good money while setting enough aside to feed her family and to plant in the next season. With improved income, Matilde and her husband can now easily pay the high school and college tuition of their four children. Matilda has also used the earnings to expand her farmland to ten hectares and devote more space to iron beans.
“The decision to adopt iron beans was definitely the best we have ever made as a family,” Matilda says with satisfaction.
*The author is a Communications Officer with HarvestPlus-Rwanda