Co-design and implementation of improved climbing bean technologies in Uganda

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A lot has happened since last year: the first paper of my PhD, entitled Understanding variability in soyabean yield and response to P-fertilizer and rhizobium inoculants on farmers’ fields in northern Nigeria got published in Field Crops Research (Podcaster 34), I largely finished the data collection in Uganda and I have entered the final year of my PhD, so I will focus on writing up the results.

I am currently working on my second and third paper. The second paper focuses on the co-design of improved climbing bean technologies with farmers in the eastern and southwestern highlands of Uganda. In 2014 and 2015 we conducted an iterative cycle of co-design of technologies, demonstration of these technologies, and evaluation of the technologies by farmers. Staking was initially identified as main challenge, so in the demonstrations we included alternative, low-cost staking materials: sisal string and banana fibre. We also included tripods, which were expected to enhance yields but were also more labour intensive. In addition, demonstrations involved different climbing bean varieties and inputs (manure, TSP, DAP and their combination), and management practices, such as row planting versus random planting. Different types of farmers (men and women from low (LRE), medium (MRE) and high (HRE) resource endowed households) evaluated these technologies and indicated the criteria that they find important when evaluating a new technology. The evaluations formed the basis for sessions where farmers, researchers, extension officers and NGO staff co-designed treatments for new demonstrations in subsequent seasons. Preliminary results were presented in Podcaster 29. I also presented this work during the Farming Systems Design Conference in Montpellier, in September last year (

The third paper is about the use and adaptation of climbing beans – how do farmers implement the co-designed technologies in adaptation trials and how do they continue to grow beans one or two seasons after they have participated in the project? In last year’s update in Podcaster 32, I presented the results of season 2015A. Currently, I finished the collection of data from three seasons of trials (2014B, 2015A and 2015B) and I am analyzing the results. An important finding from the adaptation trials, consistent over the three seasons, is that farmers in eastern and southwestern Uganda often intercrop their climbing beans with banana, coffee or other crops (Picture 1). This could mean that technologies tested and demonstrated in sole cropping could have a different effect when the beans are intercropped. Therefore, we decided to design an agronomy trial in which climbing beans are intercropped with banana. The trial is implemented by the N2Africa team in Uganda this season (2016A). We test the effect of pruning of banana leaves, so that more light is available for the beans, on two different varieties of climbing bean (local varieties Atama and Mubano versus improved variety NABEIZC). Through co-design of technologies and monitoring of the use of these technologies on farmers’ fields, we are able to develop more relevant technologies and recommendations for the diversity of smallholder farmers.

Esther Ronner, Wageningen University, The Netherlands