They say preparing githeri (beans and maize mix) is a ritual that takes hours before the meal is ready to be served. From soaking the beans to lighting the fire, it is a long and time-wasting affair.
For urban dwellers, you may have had that occasional fight with your kiosk/kibanda trader for lying to you that you had to wait for a few minutes for the meal to be ready, which turns into hours. But there is good news.
The Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro) has introduced four new improved bean varieties that cook in less than 30 minutes.
Yield per acre
The new varieties are Angaza, Metameta, Faida and Nyota, which a number of farmers are already planting.
One of the farmers, Lucy Wairimu says she has planted the Nyota variety on her one-acre farm where she used to grow the over 50-year-old Mwitemanie and Kawairimu varieties.
“It has been costly to grow the two old varieties due to low production. They have also been prone to diseases. I have since shifted to Nyota variety which is more productive,” says Wairimu.
Easy disease control
From her one-acre farm, Wairimu who planted the recommended 24 kilogrammes of the Nyota seeds, nearly doubled her usual harvest with lesser hustles in disease control.
“For Mwitemanie I used to plant up to 60kg of seeds which at its best would produce 450kg. For the Nyota variety I planted 24kg and harvested 700kg,” she says.
Wairimu says her clients, especially those supplying to hotels, are concerned about how long the beans take to cook and the prices.
“It takes at most 30 minutes to cook Nyota beans unlike the other varieties which take at least three hours. I used to sell each 90kg bag of Mwitemanie and Kawairimu at Sh4,500 while a similar quantity of Nyota variety goes for Sh7,000,” she says.
Flatulence is also a major concern for those who eat beans but with the new varieties, the rather embarrassing moments are a thing of the past.
“I am glad that the researchers addressed the issue of acidity in beans which caused flatulence. My clients who had flatulence issues with the old varieties now have positive feedback,” says the farmer.
Rachael Njenga, an agricultural extension services officer, says the new varieties have been embraced well among crop farmers.
“Angaza, Nyota and Metameta take 75-84 days, 65-70 days and 75-84 days respectively to mature. They have higher yields with Angaza and Metameta producing 2,000kg while Nyota is yielding between 1,400-2,200kg per hectare,” says Njenga.
Kalro’s National Coordinator for Grains and Legumes, Dr David Karanja says the varieties were selected among 47 others which were being tested in Kenya and Uganda.
“Out of the 47, breeders found four varieties suitable for Kenya and eight for Uganda. They were approved three years ago and we have conducted seed multiplication for distribution in the country,” explains Karanja.
He says the varieties will not only go a long way in contributing food security but also the nutrition situation.
“A sizeable percentage of our population is facing zinc deficiency. Most affected are children aged between six and 59 months. Children below five years, girls aged between 15 and 49 years and pregnant women are also affected by iron deficiency. The new varieties are rich in these nutrients,” says Karanja.
Data from Nakuru’s Department of Health indicate that 27.9 per cent of 275,921 children under five years have stunted growth above the 26 per cent national while 10.2 per cent are underweight.
He says in partnership with the county government, they plan to recruit 15,000 farmers to grow the crop with an eye on international markets, especially Europe.
Karanja raised concerns over poor bean consumption, with an average Kenyan consuming between 50 and 60 kilogrammes per year, adding that this is because of the tedious process of preparing the traditional bean variety meals.