Biodiversity & Conservation

, Volume 10, Issue 6, pp 989–1010 | Cite as

The effect of the civil war on Rwandas bean seed systems and unusual bean diversity

  • Louise Sperling


The Rwandan civil war escalated in 1994, killing 800 000 people and displacing another 2 million. Agriculture, the occupation of over 90% of the Rwandans was acutely affected as violence peaked in the middle of the growing season. This article analyses the effects of the war on bean varietal diversity as, pre-war, Rwandan farmers grew the greatest range of varieties in active use anywhere and maintaining such diversity was central to sustainable production. Extensive pre- and post-war assessments show the current bean varietal situation to be relatively promising. The war had lesser effects than anticipated: fighting was staggered, harvests were better than expected, and local seed channels generally continued functioning. However, changes in varietal profiles were noted over the longer term due to two trends: farmers' needs to intensify production and to respond to swift and widespread root rot pressures. The article ends with five methodological reflections on how to assess varietal erosion in sites of acute disruption.

Phaseolus vulgaris L. Rwanda seed systems varietal erosion war 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Allen DJ,Dessert M,Trutmann P andVoss J (1989) Common beans in Africa and their constraints. In: Schwartz HF and Marcial A Pastor-Corrales (eds) Bean Production Problems in the Tropics, 2nd edn. International Center for Tropical Agriculture, Cali, Colombia, 350 ppGoogle Scholar
  2. Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA) (1996). Crop Variety Adaptation Maps for the Greater Horn of Africa. Proposal presented to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), September 1996Google Scholar
  3. Brush S,Taylor JE andBellon MR (1992) Biological diversity and technology adoption in Andean potato agriculture. Journal of Development Economics 39: 365-387Google Scholar
  4. Buruchara R (n.d.) Development of management options for bean root rots: lessons learnt from research in the Great Lakes Region. paper presented in the Huitième Séminaire Régional sur l'Amélioration de haricot dans la Région des Grands Lacs, 5-8 November, 1995. International Center for Tropical Agriculture, Kampala, UgandaGoogle Scholar
  5. Cishahayo D, Loevinsohn M, Sperling L and Mukagatera V (n.d.) Diversite genetique et dynamique des melanges de haricot. Institut des Sciences Agronomiques du Rwanda, Karama, RwandaGoogle Scholar
  6. David S (1996) Local bean seed systems in Uganda: preliminary results from surveys in two districts. In: David S (ed) Alternative Approaches to Bean Seed Production and Distribution in Eastern and Southern Africa: Proceedings of a Working Group Meeting, Kampala, Uganda, 10-13 October 1994. Network on Bean Research in Africa, Workshop Series no. 32, CIAT, Kampala, Uganda, 142 ppGoogle Scholar
  7. David S andSperling L (1999) Improving technology delivery mechanisms: lessons from bean seed systems research in Eastern and Central Africa. Agriculture and Human Values 6: 381-388Google Scholar
  8. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) (1999) Restoring farmers' seed systems in disaster situations. Proceedings of the International Workshop on Developing Institutional Agreements and Capacity to Assist Farmers in Disaster Situations to Restore Agricultural Systems and Seed Security Activities. Rome, Italy 3-5 November 1998. FAO Plant Production Protection Paper 150: 71-91Google Scholar
  9. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) (1996) Report on: International Technical Conference on Plant Genetic Resources. Leipzig, Germany, 17-23 June, 1996. Rome: FAOGoogle Scholar
  10. Graf W,Voss J andNyabyenda P (1991) Climbing bean introduction in Southern Rwanda. In: Tripp R (ed) Planned Change in Farming Systems: Progress in on-farm Research. John Wiley & Sons, UK, 182 ppGoogle Scholar
  11. Hawkes JR (1983) The Diversity of Crop Plants. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MassachusettsGoogle Scholar
  12. Lamb EM andHardman LL (1985) Final report of: survey of bean varieties grown in Rwanda. January 1984-June 1985. AID-Rwanda Local Crop Storage Cooperative ResearchGoogle Scholar
  13. Longley C (1998) Seed management strategies of farmers affected by war: a case study from Sierra Leone. Report to ESCOR, UK Department for International DevelopmentGoogle Scholar
  14. National Research Council (NRC) (1996) Managing Global Genetic Resources: Agricultural Crop Issues and Policies. National Academy Press, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  15. Ministère de l'Agriculture et de l'Elevage, Division des Statistiques Agricoles (MINAGRI/DSA) (1992) Enquete nationale agricole 1990: production, superficie, rendement, élévage et leur évolution 1984-1990Google Scholar
  16. Ministère du Plan (MINIPLAN) (1988) Enquête nationale sur le budget et la consommation des ménages. Volume 4: consommation alimentaire en milieu rural. Kigali: République Rwandaise. Décembre 1988Google Scholar
  17. van Oosterhout S (1995) What does in situ conservation mean in the life of a small-scale farmer? Examples from Zimbabwe' communal areas. In: Sperling L andLoevinsohn M (eds) Using Diversity: Enhancing and maintaining Genetic Resources on-farm. Proceedings of a workshop held on 19-21 June 1995, New Delhi, India. International Development Research Centre, New Delhi, 280 ppGoogle Scholar
  18. Richards P,Ruivenkamp G (1995) Seeds and survival: crop genetic resources in war and reconstruction in Africa. Agricultural University of Wageningen. Report commissioned by the International Plant Genetic Resources InstituteGoogle Scholar
  19. Scheidegger UC (1993) The diversity of bean varieties in Rwanda. Bean Program Annual Report 1993. International Center for Tropical Agriculture, Cali, ColombiaGoogle Scholar
  20. Sperling L (1992a) Farmer participation in the development of bean varieties in Rwanda. In: Moock J andRhoades R (eds) Diversity, Farmer Knowledge and Sustainability. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York, 225 ppGoogle Scholar
  21. Sperling L (1992b) Can poor farmers get and keep the seed they value? ILEIA 1/92, 28-29Google Scholar
  22. Sperling L andBerkowitz P (1994) Partners in selection: bean breeders and women bean experts in Rwanda. CGIAR Gender Program. Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  23. Sperling L,Loevinsohn M andNtabomvura B (1993) Rethinking the farmer' role in plant breeding: local bean experts and on-station selection in Rwanda. Experimental Agriculture 29: 509-519Google Scholar
  24. Sperling L andLoevinsohn M (1993) The dynamics of improved bean varieties among small farmers in Rwanda. Agricultural Systems 41: 441-453Google Scholar
  25. Sperling L (1994) Analysis of bean seed channels in the Great Lakes Region: South Kivu, Zaire, Southern Rwanda. CIAT African Occasional Publication Series, No. 13Google Scholar
  26. Sperling L andMuyaneza S (1995) Intensifying production among smallholder farmer: the impact of improved climbing beans in Rwanda. African Crop Science Journal 3(1): 40-51Google Scholar
  27. Sperling L,Scheidegger U andBuruchara R (1996) Designing seed systems with small farmers: principles derived from bean research in the Great Lakes Region of Africa. Agricultural Administration (Research and Extension) Network Paper, No. 60. Overseas Development Institute, LondonGoogle Scholar
  28. Trutmann P,Voss J andFairhead J (1996) Local knowledge and farmer perceptions of bean diseases in the Central Africa Highlands. Agriculture and Human Values 13: 112-125Google Scholar
  29. Voss J (1992) Conserving and increasing on-farm genetic diversity: farmer management of varietal bean mixtures in Central Africa. In: Moock JL andRhoades RE (eds) Diversity, Farmer Knowledge and Sustainability. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New YorkGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Louise Sperling
    • 1
  1. 1.International Center of Tropical Agriculture and A.A. 6713The HagueThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations