Common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) is a highly nutritious food, containing protein, fiber, complex carbohydrates, vitamins and micro-nutrients. As such, beans strongly reinforce food and nutrition security among poor consumers, while also reducing the risk of cardio-vascular disease and diabetes.
It is the most important grain legume for direct human consumption with 23 million hectares grown worldwide, and approximately 12 million metric tons produced annually, of which 8 million tons are from Latin America and Africa. Over 200 million people in more than 24 countries in sub-Saharan Africa consume common bean. In developing countries, beans are typically smallholder crops, and in Africa they are cultivated largely by women. Consumption reaches as high as 66 kg/year/person in Rwanda and Burundi. In many areas, common bean is the second-most important source of calories after maize.
Typical bean yields, however, represent only 20 to 30% of the genetic potential of improved varieties due to major production risks such as insect pests, diseases and drought, which are increasing in severity and frequency in the region due to climate change. Drought affects production of common beans in most of Eastern Africa, but is especially severe in the mid-altitudes of Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and Zimbabwe, as well as in southern Africa as a whole.