By Godfrey Ojore and Alexander
The National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) has introduced fast-maturing beans in the Karamoja sub-region.
The NAROBEAN 6 and 7 varieties only take two months to mature as opposed to others that require four. Dr Wilberforce Tushemereirwe, the NARO director, said the beans are rich with iron that can address malnutrition and food insecurity in the region.
As a result, a campaign codenamed “EYOK MARET” (Our bean) in Kotido district was launched to promote the production and consumption of the beans.
Minister for Karamoja affairs Mary Goretti Kitutu lauded NARO for developing drought-resistant and high-yielding bean varieties for semi-arid areas. Tushemereirwe said more than 91,600 children and 9,500 women of reproductive age are acutely malnourished.
He hopes that with the new bean varieties, the situation will change.
“We plan to ensure that malnutrition is completely eradicated from Karamoja. In the next two years, our goal is to reduce the rate from 40% to 10%,” Tushemereirwe said.
He said the new variety was developed following prolonged dry spells in Karamoja that have continued to affect farmers in the region.
“As a bean breeding programme, we set out to develop varieties that yield potentially well in the intermittent drought-stressed environment of Uganda,” Dr Stanley Nkalubo, a breeder and the head of the beans programme in NARO, said.
The campaign is estimated to cost about sh3.5b. To drive the change in planting the new bean varieities among farmers, NARO intends to use school-going children to disseminate the information to their parents.
Besides the children, they plan to involve the cultural, religious and political leaders to encourage people to embrace the bean varieties.
Kitutu appealed to NARO scientists to continue innovating more varieties of seeds that can mature even faster.
She noted that the Government, with support from Germany, is set to construct three dams in the districts of Kotido, Moroto and Amudat, to help farmers manage their livestock and crops better.
Grace Natiang, a retired primary school teacher in Kotido district, is among the first farmers who planted the new bean varieties this year.
He testified of a bountiful harvest. Winfred Sande, who is in charge of school gardening at Nakoreto Primary School, one of the institutions involved in the production of the bean varieties, said they are easy to grow and are pest-resistant.
Kotido municipality MP Muhammad Ismail Lomwar said the new bean varieties will safeguard the Karamojong from hunger.