Arusha. The fight against malnutrition in Tanzania got a boost on Wednesday 20 June, following the release of two bean varieties enriched with iron and zinc.
The high-iron beans are set to reduce the high prevalence of anaemia, especially among under-five children, adolescent girls and expectant mothers.
“The new varieties also have high marketability in the local and export market”, said Jean-Claude Rubyongo, a seed system specialist with the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).
He told journalists before the seeds were released into the market by the minister for Agricutlure Charles Tizeba that the improved seeds were meant to address both food security and income requirements. Selian 14 and Selian 15 were bred by the Arusha-based Selian Agricultural Research Institute (Sari) following years of intensive research and trials.
Tanzania is one of the African countries with high iron deficiency in the world. Although the micronutrient deficiency affects women and chilren, infants are the most severely hit,often leading to anaemia.
Recent surveys indicate that the anaemia prevalence in children aged six to 59 months was 58 per cent. The situation is much worrying in Shinyanga district where the prevalence is 71 per cent of children. Elsewhere, nearly a half (45 per cent) of Tanzanian women of reproductive age are anaemic, according to the Tanzania Demographic and Health Survey and Malaria Survey.
Anaemia prevalence covering all age groups is highest in Zanzibar which is placed at 60 per cent, 72 per cent of which is in North Pemba Region. Dr.Rubyogo, who is the Bean Programme coordinator with the Pan African Bean Research Alliance (Pabra) said breeding of bean varieties enriched with iron and zinc was meant to address a public health problem through nutrition intervention.
Pabra director Dr. Robin Buruchara said although beans are among the most common food legumes consumed in many African countries, their productivity has not been taken seriously. He told The Citizen that high-yield varieties bred by agricultural research centres in Africa, through the support of the Alliance, were resistant to both diseases and pests.
“Beans should be transformed from a mere staple food and natural source of protein to a dependable source of income and also for export”. he pointed out.