Implementing research-based climate action for better adaptation

Monday October 31 2022

Today’s global challenges of poverty, malnutrition, climate change, land degradation, and biodiversity loss call for new research, solutions, innovations, and stronger partnerships that can deliver higher impact.

The Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, building on its complementary mandates and extensive collaborations, delivers research-based solutions that harness agricultural biodiversity and sustainably transform food systems to improve lives.

The Alliance works with local, national, and multinational partners across Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean, and with public and private sector players, to generate evidence and mainstream innovations in largescale programmes to create food systems and landscapes that sustain the planet, drive prosperity, and nourish people.

The Alliance is part of CGIAR, the world’s largest agricultural research and innovation partnership for a food-secure future, dedicated to reducing poverty, enhancing food and nutrition security, and improving natural resources.

As part of the CGIAR, the Alliance has been working with countries and partners in the lead up to 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27).

“Supporting the transformation of food, land and water systems in a climate crisis is CGIAR’s mission, and the stakes have never been higher. Millions more people are on the brink of food insecurity and threats to the livelihoods of smallholder farmers are increasing,” says Claudia Sadoff, Executive Managing Director of CGIAR.


For the Alliance, the focus on climate ahead of COP27 builds on some critical solutions to tackle the climate emergency – from urgently reducing greenhouse gas emissions, building resilience, and adapting to the inevitable impacts of climate change, to delivering on the commitments to finance climate action in developing countries. Some of these solutions are highlight- ed through our projects:

Accelerating the Impacts of CGIAR Climate Research for Africa (AICCRA)

Building on 50 years of CGIAR innovation, AICCRA works to scale climate-1smart agriculture and climate information services that reach millions of smallholder farmers in Africa.

In partnership with the World Bank to fight the impacts of climate change, AICCRA is:

• Scaling climate-smart technologies and climate advisories with a focus on supporting women farmers and dryland counties in Kenya in the face of climate change.

• Collaborating with national universities to develop curricula for climate-smart agriculture in response to a changing climate and the needs of diverse stakeholders (youth, practitioners).

• Prioritising bankable investments for climate-smart agriculture to help close the funding gap for climate action.

• Capacity building though sensitisation of climate change-related issues and solutions among partners and communities.

In partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture in Kenya, the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, and the Kenya CSA Multi-Stakeholder Platform, have developed a Monitoring and Evaluation reporting tool for Kenya’s agricultural sector to enhance transparency in reporting climate action from the ward to the national level.

Policy Interventions

The Alliance has built capacity of county governments to operationalise key policies such as the Kenya Climate-Smart Agriculture Strategy (KCSAS) and the Kenya CSA implementation Framework (KCSAIF). Activities include:

• Development and implementation of training on integration of CSA into county integrated development plans and county-level programmes.

• Facilitating counties to customise national agriculture and climate strategies and plans.

• Sensitisation and awareness of technical partners on integrating a climate-lens with gender and social inclusion in their processes and plans.

Bean technologies adapting to climate change in Kenya


Nyota bean is emerging as a game-changer in enabling farmers to be resilient against climate change effects in Kenya. PHOTO | COURTESY

The current drought in East Africa has been particularly devastating to small-scale farmers, majority of whom are women. “With the changing climate, life on the farm has become unpredictable. We are facing recurrent crop failures and struggling to feed our families,” says Bernadette Kioko, a bean farmer in Machakos. This is the dire situation facing over 1.4 million farming households in the country due to the prevailing drought.

Research by the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, through the bean programme, Pan Africa Bean Research Alliance (PABRA), has led to the release of over 657 new bean varieties across 31 countries in Africa since 1996. In Kenya, 39 varieties have been released in collaboration with Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO), University of Nairobi, and Egerton University.

The varieties seek to address diverse consumer needs, in addition to the multiple benefits for adaptation in the diverse bean growing areas. Some of the drought tolerant beans include KATB1, KATRAM, ATX56, and the recently released Nyota bean.

Nyota bean is emerging as a game-changer in enabling farmers to be resilient against climate change effects in Kenya. This drought-tolerant bean variety was released in 2017, targeting the semi-arid counties and seasons predicted to have depressed rainfall.

The variety has a 70-75-day maturity period, compared to the 90-120-day maturity for the other bean varieties.

Beyond quick maturity, Nyota bean has other advantages. It cooks fast and is rich in essential micronutrients such as iron and zinc. The variety has been evaluated across the country and found to perform well in semi-arid areas of Machakos, Makueni, Narok, Baringo, Turkana and Elgeyo Marakwet, as well as in Homa Bay, Siaya, Kakamega Bungoma, Nyeri, Laikipia, and Migori counties.

Importance of beans in diets

In Sub-Saharan Africa, more than 200 million people depend on beans as their most important pulse. From homes to schools, hospitals, and the military, beans constitute a major part of meals.

Beans are a crop of choice because of their versatility. It is a major source of protein, fibre, complex carbohydrates, vitamins, and micronutrients. In essence it is a complete meal.

Beans combine well with diverse foods to make a wide range of meals across different communities. In Kenya, bean-based meals such as Githeri, Mothokoi, Mokimo, Mushenye and Shitiani feature in many homes. Therefore, beans also provide income for many producers and other value chain players.

The demand for beans in Kenya is between 750,000MT to about 1 million MT per year. Of this, the country produces about 80 percent, and relies on neighbouring nations, mainly Tanzania, Uganda, and Ethiopia, to bridge the deficit.

Bean production is, however, under threat due to, among other issues, climate change. The current drought has adversely affected bean production across the country, more so in eastern Kenya.

Studies show that much of Africa has already warmed by more than 1°C since 1901. This is according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The predicted change in climate is expected to reduce the bean growing regions by 50 percent. Some parts will receive excessive rainfall, which also predispose the beans to pest and diseases.

These shifts are increasing the risk of vulnerability of the smallholder farmers.

Researchers at the Alliance in Cali, Colombia, have developed heat-tolerant beans through conventional breeding, by crossing between the modern kind and the tepary bean that is hardier to climate stresses.

Steve Beebe, a senior bean researcher at the Alliance, observes that the heat-tolerant beans may be able to handle a worst-case scenario of a temperature rise of four degrees Celsius.

Beans that can beat the heat could be essential to survival in many regions, such as Northern Uganda, Southeast Congo, Malawi, and Eastern Kenya, that are currently unfavourable for bean production because of heat.

Climate-smart forages, a true and feasible triple win intervention

The livestock sector is important for people and planet alike, and plays a crucial role in our economy and people’s livelihoods. Due to its high GHG emissions, the livestock sector is a main target for mitigation action.

Forages with high productivity and nutritional quality adapted to specific soil and climate conditions can provide animal feed throughout the year, while at same time reducing GHG emissions.

Cultivated forages include a wide variety of sown or planted grasses, herbaceous legumes, trees and shrubs (mostly legumes) that are integrated in a variety of mixed systems, including intensive or extensive mixed agricultural systems with grazing or cut-and-carry systems, agro-pastoral, and silvo-pastoral systems. They are among the most promising climate-smart options in the livestock sector.

The Alliance’s Tropical Forages Programme, through its targeted breeding initiative and regional teams, integrates improved forages into local livestock production systems to enhance the following:

(i) Livestock production: Feed shortage, especially during the dry season, is one of the most important issues raised by livestock farmers across the developing world. Improved feeding strategies, and increasing quantity and quality of the feed baskets, can increase production of safe and nutritious livestock products and the income of livestock keepers.

(ii) Climate change resilience: Feed availability and quality is often cited as one of the biggest risks for livestock associated with climate change. Improved and well-adapted feed crops, and forages grown under appropriate management, can contribute to the resilience of livestock production systems.

They can reverse land degradation through use of animal manure, soil erosion control if planted for such purpose, and general improvement of soil fertility, especially by legumes, which have nitrogen-fixing capacities or when integrated with other soil fertility management options.

(iii) GHG emission intensity: The provision of feeds and forages of higher digestibility is a well-documented mitigation option, specifically so for ruminant production in the developing world. To maximise the benefits of improved feed quality and to reduce the leakage effect, reductions in animal numbers also need to be part of the strategy.

Together with public and private partners, the Alliance’s forage scientists work to avail seeds and planting materials to as many farmers as possible and contribute to the wide-scale implementation of this true triple-win intervention.

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