International Fund for Agricultural Development Projects in Eswatini Celebrate World Pulses Day and So Should You
The United Nations general assembly designated February 10 of each year since 2019 as World Pulses Day to recognize and raise awareness of the importance of pulses. This year, the celebration was under the theme “#LovePulses for a healthy diet and planet.” In keeping with this theme, for this year’s celebration of World Pulses Day, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) country program in Eswatini, which is composed of the Smallholder Market-Led Project (SMLP) and the Financial Inclusion and Cluster Development Project (FINCLUDE), convened an event to raise awareness on the benefits of dry beans for nutrition, environment and incomes, as well as to discuss issues pertaining to the bean value chain. The event was attended by representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture, SMLP and FINCLUDE implementing partners, the World Food Programme (WFP), private sector and beneficiaries. Panelists presented on the benefits of pulses and discussed opportunities and challenges in the sugar bean value chain in Eswatini.
Pulses are the dried seeds of legume plants, such as chickpeas, dry beans, lentils, dry peas and lupins, among others. They are an important, easy-to-grow and affordable food security crop with high nutritional value that also offer income generation opportunities for rural men, women and youth. Recognizing the value of pulses for income generation, food security and nutrition, the IFAD projects in Eswatini are promoting the sugar bean value chain, among other pulses, such as jugo beans. By supporting beneficiaries involved in the growing and marketing of sugar beans, IFAD is improving the availability of nutritious pulses and the income earning opportunities for rural men, women and youth. Eswatini as a country is aiming to reach self-sufficiency in the production of dry beans, and the contribution that SMLP and FINCLUDE are making through strengthening smallholder farmer participation in the production and marketing of dry beans is hoped to catalyze greater entrance of smallholder rural men, women and youth.
Environmental and climate resilience benefits
Eswatini faces severe climate change-related problems with significant economic and livelihood impacts on the vulnerable rural poor. Climate change is threatening the future of food production and food security for millions, and this makes it more urgent to promote food crops that offer resilience to climate change. Pulses help to improve the nitrogen levels in soils through fixation of atmospheric nitrogen, reducing the need for artificial fertilizers. When pulses are produced under cropping systems, such as intercropping and crop rotation, they also help to improve the productivity of the cropping land, reduce land degradation and increase water-use efficiency. Intercropping with pulses can also help to fight off pests, thereby reducing dependency on chemical pesticides.
Youth and women inclusion
Eswatini has one of the youngest populations in the world and one of the highest youth unemployment rates in Africa of close to 50%. The sugar bean value chain provides several entry points for youth employment and entrepreneurship at various nodes, from seed production to hiring out of mechanization for planting and shelling of beans; to logistics and marketing. Leveraging the opportunities along the bean value chain coupled with appropriate support for the youth could make a dent in youth unemployment and youth poverty. Not only is the sugar bean value chain rife with opportunities for the youth, but in many sub-Saharan African countries, pulses have traditionally been considered women’s crops and this means that pulse value chains could offer wins for improving women’s income earning opportunities.
Nutritional and health benefits
Eswatini experiences the double burden of malnutrition with concomitant rural undernutrition and urban obesity. The country also experiences high levels of food insecurity with more than 60% of the population being food insecure. Pulses supply much needed nutrients, such as fiber, vitamins and minerals, which makes them an essential component of a diverse diet to combat both undernutrition and obesity. Their high energy and protein content makes them an important complementary staple food, and hence, an important food security crop, particularly for rural poor households that cannot afford animal source protein.
What Could Improve in Eswatini’s Sugar Bean Value Chain?
Eswatini is home to approximately 1.3 million people, 76% of whom live in the rural areas and rely on agriculture for food and livelihood. Forty-three percent of households in the country cultivate cash crops, among which are pulses. The most common pulses in Eswatini are cowpeas, groundnuts, jugo beans, mung beans and sugar beans. The main commercially produced pulse is the sugar bean, which is also commonly called dry beans. Smallholder farmers are the predominant producers of sugar beans, but due to limited production capacity, they are unable to produce enough to meet national food requirements. Hence, the country relies on imports to meet its dry beans requirements. Dry bean production by smallholder farmers is still characterized by low yields. Reliance on rainfed agriculture, effects of climate change, environmental degradation, poor access to bean seed and lack of access to productive resources, such as capital, planters and postharvest machinery, limit the productivity of sugar beans in Eswatini. Studies in Eswatini have shown that dry beans have a gross margin of 26% and a break-even yield of 1.11 tons. Therefore, in order for smallholder farmers to realize sufficient profits, they need support to increase their production and productivity levels.
Value chain studies that have been conducted in Eswatini point to the potential of investments in the bean value chain for generating decent jobs for men, women and youth. Youth unemployment (47.1%) and poverty (59%) are two of the biggest economic challenges facing Eswatini and the ripple effects are seen in the high levels of food insecurity and malnutrition, particularly among the rural poor. For youth, lack of access to land is an impediment.
How do we get there?
- Support production of bean seed by small- and medium-sized farmers to reduce the cost of bean seed
- Invest in the mechanization of legume production (planters) and postharvest management (shellers)
- Strengthen market linkages with secure markets that offer competitive prices
Support the youth
- Support youths’ access to agricultural land
- Invest in pulse value chains to make them more profitable and attractive to youth, who are interested in profitable enterprises
- Design innovative financial products to support youth with seed capital to enter the bean value chain
- Conduct nutrition education and social behavior change communication to raise awareness on the health and environmental benefits of the production and consumption of beans
What IFAD Projects in Eswatini Are Doing
Supporting young people to participate in bean seed and bean grain production enterprises
The SMLP project is supporting youth groups, such as the Khulasande Youth Group, to enter the bean value chain. The Khulasande Youth Group is a group of eight young men and women aged between 18 and 35 years. The project assisted the group to access land under a one-year lease agreement from the local Chiefdom Development Structure. The youth group has since been using the land to produce sugar beans. The group received business mentorship and a seed capital grant of E10,000 from Catalyze, a business development service provider that works with SMLP. The group was then linked with the National Maize Council, which it now supplies with all its produce. FINCLUDE makes use of clustering to incorporate youths into the bean value chain with sufficient support services and market access.
Linking bean farmers to consistent markets
The IFAD-funded SMLP project is supporting sugar beans farmers to improve the quantity and quality of their yields. The supported farmers have successfully secured off-take contracts. Both the SMLP and FINCLUDE projects are linking smallholder bean farmers to reliable, consistent and profitable markets. SMLP farmers supply the National Maize Council, which provides extension support and picks up the dry beans at the farm gate. FINCLUDE has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the WFP, under which the FINCLUDE-supported producer groups will supply WFP’s Home-Grown School Feeding Programme with beans at competitive prices. WFP will also provide postharvest management training and postharvest management equipment to the producer groups to reduce postharvest losses, as well as meet the required quality standards.
Linking farmers to finance through FINCLUDE’s instruments
FINCLUDE makes use of investment pathways to determine farmers’ need for financing. For farmers that require financing in the forms of loans, the project facilitates a linkage to partner financial institutions to apply for loan finance. FINCLUDE closely monitors, supervises and reports on investment implementation by all farmers it supports to access loan financing as part of an ongoing coaching and mentoring program.
Helping farmers benefit from economies of scale through clustering
FINCLUDE makes use of clustering to help bean farmers to meet economies of scale for better access to both input and output markets. Through the multistakeholder cluster meetings and business-to-business interactions, FINCLUDE beneficiaries are directly linked with markets, service providers and extension, and capacitated to negotiate for themselves as a way to eliminate dependency on the project for access to any of these services.