Last autumn trials were organized with farmers in seven villages in Chiquimula district of Guatemala to evaluate tepary bean (Phaseolus acutifolius). This species is a relative of common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris), which is the major staple of Guatemalan diets alongside maize. Like common bean, tepary is of Mesoamerican origin but it has effectively disappeared from farmers' fields in Guatemala. Because of its high drought tolerance, this species can help secure bean yields in the face of climate change. The IFAD-EU NUS project is investigating the acceptability of tepary bean for farmers and consumers to see how this species may support diversification of production systems as an adaptation strategy.
Following the triadic comparisons of technology ('tricot') methodology developed by Bioversity International (see ClimMob.net), individual farmers were given three varieties of tepary bean to plant and evaluate in their fields. It was blind trial, as the farmers didn't know the names of the three varieties they were given. After 30 and 45 days, the farmers were contacted by mobile phone or by direct visit to collect their impressions on the performance of the different varieties, which they knew as A, B, and C.
In mid-January, a workshop was held to share the results and collect the farmers overall impressions on the trials. The farmers learned the names of the varieties they evaluated and in community-specific working groups, they compared their observations on the performance of the different varieties. Because of the extreme growing conditions, unfortunately only a handful of plants survived to produce seed. The farmers' regular bean crop also did not perform well during the season due to extreme drought conditions. Had the seed arrived slightly earlier, the farmers considered the plants could have performed better. The farmers evaluated growth of the plants up to 30 and 45 days considering their leaf growth and some varieties stood out as best performers. The group was eager to repeat the trial again, trying out the varieties in the spring growing season, as well as in the autumn.
The seeds of tepary bean were obtained from a breeding program in Panama. The eight varieties used in the trials are now under multiplication by the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala for use in a second round of trials. The availability of this bean in Guatemala, where it had essentially disappeared, is already seen as a success of the initiative. Further trials will tell if indeed this crop can help in building resilience of farming systems to climate change.
- Resources on the triadic comparisons of technology ('tricot') methodology: ClimMob.net
- IFAD-EU NUS Project page
- Photos from the workshop