The contribution of the CIAT genebank to the development of iron-biofortified bean varieties and well-being of farm households in Rwanda


Genebanks play an essential role in a world where agricultural biodiversity has been lost from farming habitats, malnutrition persists as global population continues to rise, and farm productivity is vulnerable to climate change. We demonstrate the importance of the genebank of the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) to the development of seven iron-biofortified varieties of climbing bean and the impact of their adoption on farm households in Rwanda. First, we link iron-biofortified varieties of climbing beans directly to the genebank through pedigree analysis and key informant interviews with the breeders who developed them. Second, we apply various econometric models to test the impact of adoption on yield, consumption, and purchase of beans by farming households in Rwanda, building upon previous research on bush beans. We based the analysis on a dataset of nearly 1400 households, collected in 2015 by HarvestPlus. We found that the scope of the genetic diversity housed in the bean collection at CIAT was fundamental to developing successful iron-biofortified beans. We found significant positive effects of climbing varieties on yields; however, we did not find significant effects on the amounts of beans consumed by households or bean purchases. Our results suggest that it is possible to trace the journey of an accession from its introduction in the genebank to its final use by farmers and consumers. Positive effects on yield generate incentives for adoption of iron-biofortified bean varieties, potentially boosting micronutrient consumption. Further research is needed to understand the factors affecting the adoption and impacts of climbing bean varieties.

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  1. 1.

    These are the results of adoption after checking a sample of the varieties received by farmers against X-ray fluorescence results of iron content of beans to confirm that farmers had correctly identified the variety as iron-biofortified.

  2. 2.

    For more information on the gene pools of common beans, see Debouck (1999) and CWR (2019).

  3. 3.

    See Soren et al. (2016) for a summary of biofortification work on common beans.


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Funding for this research was provided by the CGIAR Genebank Platform, CIAT, and the Crop Trust through the 2018 Genebank Impacts Fellowship Program. We would like to acknowledge CIAT and the staff of the Genetic Resources Program, the impact assessment team, the bean programme, and the team of HarvestPlus for providing information and sharing their expertise. We would like to thank the bean breeders who provided us with valuable information on the development of improved bean varieties. Finally, we are extremely grateful to Daniel Debouck for sharing his knowledge with us and supporting this study from its beginning.

Authorship contribution

The first author contributed to the research conceptualization and design, data gathering, data analysis, writing, and editing. The second author contributed to research conceptualization and design, data provision, and data analysis. The third and fourth authors contributed to research conceptualization and design, data analysis, writing, and editing. The last three authors contributed to research conceptualization and design, data provision, and data analysis.

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Correspondence to Melinda Smale or Nelissa Jamora.

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Conflict of interest

The sixth author is currently the Genebank Manager of CIAT. The fifth and last authors are scientists at CIAT. The fourth author is an agricultural economist at the Crop Trust. The remaining authors declare no conflict of interest.

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Sellitti, S., Vaiknoras, K., Smale, M. et al. The contribution of the CIAT genebank to the development of iron-biofortified bean varieties and well-being of farm households in Rwanda. Food Sec. 12, 975–991 (2020).

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  • Genebank
  • Genetic resources
  • Iron-biofortified bean varieties
  • Adoption