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Diversity, use and production of farmers’ varieties of common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L., Fabaceae) in southwestern and northeastern Ethiopia


Legumes are a critical component of many agricultural systems and a major contributor to global food systems. Common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) is the most widely grown legume crop in Ethiopia. It is an important source of food, income, and soil fertility management in southwestern (SW) and northeastern (NE) Ethiopia, and used as medicine, fodder, and honeybee forage in the NE. Diversity and use of farmers’ varieties of common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) bean were investigated in five administrative zones in SW and NE Ethiopia. Structured and semi-structured interviews were conducted with 288 general informants and 48 key informants in five agroecological zones inhabited by four cultural groups. Thirty-nine varieties were identified based on farmers’ naming practices. Varietal richness and diversity were found to be highest in the humid, tepid mid-highlands of Kefa (13) and Bench Maji and Sheka (12). However, farmers in both research areas typically plant only one or two varieties. Interestingly, the number of varieties per household was highest (2.3) in South Wollo Zone of the NE, where only six varieties were found. We find that varieties per household are limited by small landholdings in the SW and varietal richness in the NE. Given these limitations, policies and programs to conserve varietal diversity and increase productivity are more likely to be effective if organized at the community level in the SW and the household level in the NE. Agromorphological and genetic characterization of common bean varieties would facilitate the management and conservation of their diversity as a source of resilience.

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The authors would like to acknowledge support from Mekelle University, Haramaya University, Jimma University, Addis Ababa University, Wollo University, and Cornell University. We would like to thank the farmers we interviewed and the zonal, district, and sub-district administrators who facilitated the research. We would like to thank Kochito Gebremariam for Kefi Noono spellings and Demeke Negussie at the Ethiopian Institute for Agricultural Research who helped with the map design. We would also like to thank the McKnight Foundation’s Collaborative Crop Research Program for financial and technical support under CCRP Grant 15-258.


This study was funded by the Collaborative Crop Research Program of the McKnight Foundation (CCRP Grant 15-258).

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Correspondence to Amsalu Nebiyu.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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The research protocol (#1605006357) was determined to be exempt from review by the Institutional Review Board for Human Participants at Cornell University (USA) on the basis that the research consists of interviews that pose minimal risk to interviewees. Free and informed oral consent was obtained by the two first authors from all participants prior to each interview.

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Abera, B., Berhane, M., Nebiyu, A. et al. Diversity, use and production of farmers’ varieties of common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L., Fabaceae) in southwestern and northeastern Ethiopia. Genet Resour Crop Evol 67, 339–356 (2020).

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  • Agrobiodiversity
  • Common bean
  • Cropping systems
  • Farmers’ knowledge
  • Landholding size
  • Relative wealth