CGIAR Gender News

Empowering women entrepreneurs to deliver quality bean seed in Burundi

Market place Photo: CGIAR/CIAT

Common beans are a major food and cash crop for more than 90% of smallholder farmers in Burundi. However, access to quality seed of improved bean varieties and related services remains a challenge in Burundi which does not have a single seed company. The Institut des Sciences Agronomiques du Burundi (ISABU) in partnership with the Alliance of Bioversity International and the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (Alliance) through the Pan- Africa Bean Research Alliance (PABRA) embarked on the development of local seed entrepreneurs particularly women to produce and market quality seed bundled with other related services and inputs.

Ms Kabirori Regine is one of these local entrepreneurs; a farmer from Kirundo province who has been growing beans to feed her family for a long time. Although she could find bean seed to grow from the local market, she could not differentiate the bean varieties a nor their attributes. Often, she only found out – at harvest time – that her bean was of mixed varieties, the yield was low, and this mixed beans often fetched low prices at the market.

In 2016, a chance meeting with Mr Sizibera Juvenal, the president of Terimbere Murimyi, a bean-growing cooperative changed a lot for Regine. When he heard her lamenting on the state of her bean yield, he offered to link her with bean researchers at ISABU, who provided her with some technical advice on how to improve her bean production. The technicians at ISABU carried out demonstration of new varieties in her different farm. She noticed significant differences in yield from the beans she grew particularly the new bean varieties. The new varieties were early maturity, large grain size etc, traits that are most preferred.  Subsequently, ISABU team advised her where to buy good quality seeds. Initially, she was producing bean seed and selling to her neighbors. For instance, before 2016, she produced 1.25 tons of bean seed on her four-hectare farm. The success in seed business was evident as the seed demand of improved bean varieties increased. Due to the demand, she rented other farms from her neighbors to grow more and sold more seed to farmers’ organizations in distant communes, NGOs and other development partners. For instance, in 2021 she produced and supplied 86.7 tons of certified bean seed (see photo 1). Using seed business experience from beans, she decided to expand to other crops among them maize and rice.  In 2021, she produced 20.1 and 12.4 tons of certified seed of open pollinated maize and rice improved varieties respectively.