Improving African bean productivity in a changing global environment


Common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) cultivation delivers income to farmers and nutrition to consumers in sub-Saharan Africa. With a growing population and land scarcity, there will be greater pressure to intensify common bean and other crops in the region. However, high temperatures and increased drought may reduce common bean yields in Africa. Climate change impacts on climbing beans are not yet clear. Therefore, the objective of this study was to evaluate the expected impact of climate change on suitability for climbing bean cultivation. The study identifies areas suitable to cultivate climbing beans in sub-Saharan Africa, taking into account the present climate as well as the predicted future climate. The analysis compares and evaluates the performance of two ecological niche models—Ecocrop and MaxEnt—under future climatic conditions, according to global circulation models of the last Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report. The Ecocrop model results showed a wide common bean distribution in comparison with those of MaxEnt, which showed a better approximation to the current distribution of climbing beans. The MaxEnt model performed well as judged by validation statistics and comparison with climbing bean production data. Overall, the models project climate change to decrease the suitability of climbing beans in Africa. The results suggest that rising temperatures and variable rainfall will most severely affect bean production in countries of southern Africa such as Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Mozambique. In other parts of the tropics, climbing bean cultivation may suffer rising temperatures and more variable rainfall at higher latitudes, as opposed to areas near the equator. The study suggests where agricultural specialists can promote climbing beans in Africa and other regions of the world, where they are highly suitable and not yet widely cultivated. Researchers can improve studies such as this one for beans and other crops by developing more detailed calibration and validation data sets for modeling efforts.

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Ricardo Labarta (CIAT) provided the calibration data on climbing bean presence in Uganda and Rwanda from the DIIVA project, without which the modeling would have been impossible. José Restrepo of the Foundation for Agricultural Research and Development (FIDAR) shared his first-hand and extensive experience on different aspects of climbing beans. Rachel Muthoni provided information and guidance related to her work with the Pan-African Bean Research Alliance (PABRA). Andrew Farrow provided geographic and statistical information on common bean from the Atlas of Common Bean in Africa. Special thanks to Dr. I. Rao for advice on common bean agronomy and crop physiology.


The CGIAR funded this research (

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Conceptualization, G.T., G.H., S.B., R.B., and J.R.; methodology, G.T., G. H, J.C.R, E.K., and F.C.; validation, G.T. and F.C.; formal analysis, G.T. and F.C.; investigation, G.T. and F.C.; writing—original draft preparation, G.T., G.H., E.K., J.C.R. and R.B.; writing—review and editing, G.H., S.B., E.K., J.C.R., R.B., and F.C.; supervision, G.H. and J.R.

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Correspondence to Glenn Hyman.

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Taba-Morales, G., Hyman, G., Mejía, J.R. et al. Improving African bean productivity in a changing global environment. Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Change 25, 1013–1029 (2020).

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  • Climbing beans
  • Species distribution models
  • MaxEnt
  • Ecocrop
  • Climate change
  • Spatial analysis
  • Geographic distribution