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About 400 million people in the tropics eat beans as part of their daily diet. Often referred to as “the meat of the poor,” beans provide a highly nutritious food, containing protein, fiber, complex carbohydrates, vitamins, and micronutrients.

Beans also provide income for millions of people, particularly in Africa and Latin America.

Farmers struggle to satisfy consumer demand, producing around 12 million tons of common beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) every year worldwide.

What we do: Delivering better varieties for income, nutrition, and resilience

With our partners, we develop improved beans that show resilience under harsh growing conditions, which are becoming even worse as a result of climate change impacts.

Decades of CIAT research on bean have led to massive uptake of improved varieties, with significant impacts on food security in major bean-producing countries.

Better beans for Africa

Pabra Logo Opt 2aThe development and dissemination of new bean technologies in Africa is orchestrated by the Pan-African Bean Research Alliance (PABRA), which is coordinated by CIAT and unites 30 member countries.

We develop better beans that are:

  • Higher yielding
  • Nutritionally improved (especially iron and zinc)
  • Resistant to pests and diseases
  • Tolerant to drought, heat, and low soil fertility
  • Well suited in terms of seed and color to market demands

How we do it: Leveraging genetic resources and biotechnology tools

CIAT safeguards the world’s largest and most diverse collection of bean germplasm. The collection consists of around 36,000 samples of cultivated materials mostly from the crop’s Mesoamerican and Andean centers of origin together with wild species related to these materials. The CIAT collection constitutes a valuable resource for bean improvement worldwide.

CIAT bean researchers are developing a wide range of user-friendly molecular markers (especially SSRs) and have implemented marker-assisted selection for disease resistance. They also aim to combine tolerance to various abiotic stresses (drought and poor soils) through the use of gene discovery, marker-assisted selection, and farmer participatory methods.

Our impact

Over 550 new bean varieties released by PABRA member countries with CIAT assistance across Africa since 1996

Climbing beans yielding three times more than the familiar bush type provide an especially eco-efficient solution for densely populated, land-scarce places like Rwanda, Burundi, and western Kenya

Scientists have identified beans that can beat the heat and perform well under at least 3 °C higher average temperatures

Specially-bred, high-iron beans have reduced iron deficiency and anemia in young women in Rwanda

Visualize the beans released by CIAT through PABRA in Africa according to the purpose of release.

CIAT’s global bean research contributes importantly to two CGIAR Research Programs:

Research updates

beans | CIAT Blog Science to Cultivate Change


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