Bean variety named Raila to grace cereal dishes menu

A trader displays the bean variety called Raila at Gakoromone Market in Meru. Traders say it is a popular buy and liked for its quick cooking and taste. [Kibata Kihu, Standard]
The first name of ODM leader Raila Odinga is among those picked to identify bean varieties developed during an eight-year research to improve agricultural yields in five counties.

The bean is one of the popular varieties identified as best suited for growing in coffee zones and lower regions in Tharaka Nithi, Embu and Meru counties.

Researchers said farmers had named it 'Raila' because of its crisp, dark tone that is similar to the pigmentation of the opposition leader.

The name was unveiled during an Australian-funded project called the Maize-Legume Cropping Systems for Food Security in Eastern and Southern Africa (Simlesa).

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The project, which was being run by the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro) was conducted in the eastern Kenya counties as well as in Bungoma and Siaya in western Kenya.

Farmers are routinely asked to suggest names for crop varieties developed by Kalro. Previous names picked for other popular varieties include 'Mwende' – a Kamba name for a girl – for a bean variety that has little gas when cooked.

Pigeon peas

'Kendi' – a Meru girl’s name – has also been picked for a popular variety of pigeon peas tested under the Simlesa project, while another variety under this category has been given the local name 'Ndombolo'.

Alfred Micheni, an agronomist at the Kalro Embu station, said that ‘Ndombolo’ had not proved to be popular among farmers.

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The adoption of the politician’s name for the bean variety is not new. One bean variety was named ‘Saitoti’ after former Vice-President George Saitoti.

Again, the naming was based on the bean’s colour and the VP’s pigmentation.

Another bean variety developed in the 1980s was named ‘Nyayo’ in recognition of retired President Daniel Moi.

Dr Micheni said various maize varieties have also been developed for the eastern Kenya counties under the Simlesa project.

Researchers have also come up with seven different fodder varieties as they try to impress upon farmers to abandon the use of farm residue to feed their animals.

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“Using residue as fodder robs the farm of important nutrients for regeneration and leaves the land without important mulching cover,” said Dr Charles Nkonge, Simlesa project coordinator.

Kalro Director General Eliud Kireger warned that world hunger was on the rise and was projected to affect an estimated 815 million people.

“Sub-Saharan Africa has become the only region where the number of undernourished people has consistently increased since the beginning of the decade with over 30 per cent of children under five being stunted – the highest rate in the world,” said Dr Kireger in a speech read on his behalf by assistant director Anthony Esilaba.

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