Beans Farming In Kenya: Beans are the most widely grown pulses in Kenya. These beans are mainly grown in counties of Eastern, Central, Rift Valley and Western regions. Beans Farming is very important as it  contributes significantly to the achievement of the Big Four Agenda of 100% food and nutrition  security in line with various other policy frameworks within the Country.

Beans Farming In Kenya

With the rural to urban migration, high population growth and the increasing consumer awareness on health in relation to nutrition, a high majority of the population is consuming bean as a source of protein as most people reduce on animal protein intake. This has contributed to increased demand for beans in addition to what is consumed in the various institutions (Schools, Hospitals and the Hotels) that mainly consume beans as plant protein source; thus the ever rising increase in demand for the bean commodity that has maintained bean prices way above average.

Despite the raising demand for beans and the good market prices; beans farming has been humped by some challenges key among them climate change which has significantly affected  production. Due to climate change some parts of the Country experience an increase in average  temperature, more frequent heat waves, more stressed water resources and periods of heavy precipitation.

The adoption of climate smart technologies, innovation and practices will help address these challenges and thus increase beans farming productivity per unit area, thus ensuring adequate production to meet market demand.

Background information on Beans Farming In Kenya

The common bean crops are differently known worldwide for its short duration in production.  These pulses consist of types suitable to specific agro ecological zones; most wet areas, medium and dry regions. This enable adapting beans as suitable for modeling climate smart agriculture in each region since there are varieties fitting in specific different regions.

The scientific term Phaseolus vulgaris (L.) refers to a series of beans namely: bush beans, climbing beans, semi- climbing beans, common beans, dry beans and dwarf beans while the green types are referred to as field beans, French beans, garden beans, green beans, snap beans or string beans. These are combined with a host of local names for each variety as nearly every community has its own naming.

In Kenya, bean is a small-scale farmer crop given its short growth cycle (about 70 days) which permits production when rainfall is erratic. Common bean is often grown by women farmers mainly for subsistence and markets. Also, being leguminous, beans harbor Rhizobium bacteria which fix free atmospheric nitrogen, thus helping in maintenance of soil fertility.

Kenya is the seventh biggest global producer of common beans and the third leading producer in East Africa after Tanzania and Uganda. Beans are cultivated almost exclusively by about 2 million smallholder farmers on about a million hectares, with yields of about 1.0 tones/ha.

Beans farming is done in almost all regions in Kenya. However, Eastern, Nyanza, Central, Western and Rift valley are the major beans farming areas. A good number of local traders include beans on their shelves due to the local demand for all types of meals.

Major constraints of beans farming in Kenya

Major constraints of dry beans farming are due to increasing moisture stress as a result of climate change, low soil fertility and over cultivation with little addition of soil amendments, poor cultural practices and inadequate beans farming technology transfer. Other problems are production of varieties with low genetic potentials, inadequate seed dissemination systems, lack of market information and infestations by arthropod pests and diseases.

Selection of bean variety

Some varieties take a short period to mature while others take longer. Farmers from drought prone areas should go for early maturing varieties while those in areas with plenty of rainfall should grow late maturing varieties.

Farmer’s also need to ask themselves why they prefer planting particular bean varieties. For subsistence beans farming, farmers can plant as many varieties as they wish as these will yield differently in times of climate stress and also maintain diverse seed choice in the farming community. Agribusiness farmers will be attracted by high yielding varieties and quality of grain for the market. They will consider how much they will have invested in the beans farming and overall profit after subtracting all related costs.

Bean Seed quality and access

Seed is an essential component in agricultural production. Clean seed is a basic resource for crop
production and has a direct contribution to harvest attained. A good quality bean seed should have
the following characteristics:-

One colour pattern of seed
• One variety of seed
• Viable and high vigour
• No dis-colouration of seed
• Not shriveled seed
• Disease-free/Clean seed
• Without insect damage on the seed
• Seed not broken/ whole seed
• Without trash, straw, dirt, soil or stones

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Beans Farming In Kenya: How to grow

Beans are an important food crop in mid altitude, arid and semi-arid areas of Kenya. Yields of up to 10 bags per acre can be obtained but this can be hindered by low rainfall, poor crop management, low fertility, high bean fly incidence and use of inappropriate seed variety. Good quality seeds of the appropriate variety should always be used for high yields.

Beans farming in Kenya is a lucrative business because beans are one of the plant sources of protein, beans are being consumed in large quantities and the demand for them is always high.

Crop establishment

Bean crop establishment starts with the soil suitability; where a well-drained soil, is important for germination and crop establishment. Such soil ought to be rich in organic matter, weed free  environment and optimum pH of 6.5-7.5. Growth is poor in waterlogged soils in most areas. Farmers ought to consult extension providers on their soil type determination for bean production.

Land Preparation

Good land preparation is a pre-requisite before rain onset. Seedbed preparation will depend on amount and type of rainfall pattern. As essential climate smart agriculture (CSA) input is ensuring that for dry areas, seed is planted in a furrow trough while for wetter areas is planted in raised  terrace

In most cases women use pangas to plant bean crop. Other farmers use jembes, furrow openers or adapted maize of wheat planters. However, planting along rows and planting only 1-2 seeds per plant hole gives options for better management of the crop. Bean crop spacing of 45cmx15 cm or 50cmx10cm has demonstrated proper resource application and maintenance of good agronomic practices.


In some cases, farmers are also interested in inclusion of a maize crop. The farmers are advised to  pace their maize crops by planting several rows of beans between the maize plants.

In other cropping systems where moisture and fertility are low due to reduced rainfall amount and poor soil nutrient content, bean spacing will be altered to increase area for higher plant population. The result will be sustainable production with limited resources as a CSA approach.


In some areas three bean rows of short spacing could be planted before 30cm row spacing. Likewise, where  fertility and soil moisture are modest then single row and normal spacing of 30cm x 15 cm is  maintained. Otherwise, where low rainfall amount occurs combined with low fertility the spacing is increased to one metre and 15cm for inter-row and intra row spacing respectively

The bean crop can be intercropped with other cereals like maize. It is not recommended to plant beans and maize in the same hole as is common with some farmers. Planting beans and maize in the same hole promotes competition for water and nutrients.

The two crops flower and mature at different times and beans will be a disadvantage. Farmers can use several combinations of beans and maize, e.g. alternating two rows beans to 1 row maize

Beans Farming growth water requirement

The bean crop requires a well distributed annual rainfall of between 800-2,000mm for the rain fed production. Alternatively, irrigation could be availed if rainfall is inadequate, if not so eminent crop failure occurs.
Needless to say, too much rain or long dry spells are not conducive and reduces yields of bean  crop. Excessive rainfall during flowering causes flower abortion and increased disease incidences.

Dry weather conditions are needed during harvesting, hence farmer ought to synchronize activities  as required for production to maximize yield in the prevailing conditions. The knowledge of the risk factors will enable carrying out mitigation measures on the crop to reduce losses.

Temperature requirement on beans farming in Kenya

Beans can grow optimally in a wide range of temperatures ranging between 15-33 °C (degree centigrade). However, bean crop thrives well in a warm climate optimal temperature of 18-24 °C. relative high temperatures affect flowering and pod setting processes. The crop is extremely sensitive to frost.

Where temperature is greater than 30 degrees use of shades and suitable CSA practices will be essential to prevent yield loss. In areas where temperatures are below 21 °C delay of maturity and seed formation result into empty pods. If temperatures are low, production in greenhouse  structures of plastic covers will provide a higher temperature for crop development and better yields.


Beans farming nutrition and weed management

Even in the marginal areas optimal production requires that the crop is supplied with sufficient  nutrients, both macro and micronutrient elements. This is because, if deprived of such nutrients, the crop becomes weak and very susceptible to attack by pathogens. This subsequently leads to reduced yield of grain.

During planting, application of DAP fertilizer is recommended at a rate of 1 bag per acre. Considering the amount of organic matter in the soil, manure can also be applied. If soil tests are carried out, other fertilizers can be incorporated either at planting or vegetative crop development as the test results show in most cases. In choice of organic farming the farmer uses only farm yard and animal manure.

In weed management, a farmer makes a choice on the method used to control weeds. Hand
jembe is the common tool in most farms. Otherwise, where farmers are endowed with capital input, use of herbicide is being adapted from planting to bean crop development stages.

Bean Pests’ Management

Pests and diseases significantly reduce the yield of beans. Pests like cutworms and bean fly occur at crop establishment and need to be managed early to prevent about 30% yield loss. At vegetative stage, diseases become the major risk of yield reduction and could result to over 20% loss, thus  their management is critical.

At flowering and pod formation stage, the blister beetles and pod borers like bollworm and other caterpillars have to be managed to reduce yield loss by 40%.

Pest scouting is carried out each morning (7:30 to 9:30am) to determine need to control the injurious organisms before their numbers cause damage. Bean pests increase with increase of rainfall and temperature. Climate change increasing the two parameters will increase various pests
on bean crop.

Variety maturity considerations

Depending on the various varieties, beans are ready for harvesting 70-120 days after sowing. Others take shorter periods. At maturity, the plants leaves turn yellowish to brown or fall from plants. Beans can be harvested green or when dry. While bush beans are collected from the field and uprooted as whole plants, for the climbing types one picks the single pods and are threshed before winnowing.

Harvesting of beans

In most cases, pods are picked from the plants when completely dry. Right time of picking the pods is important to avoid wastage of grain when left in field for long. However, if they have withered but are still moist, they can be harvested and sun dried. Pods that are completely dry split open, exposing the dried bean grain.

Threshing and winnowing

Harvested plant pods or whole plant hills are placed on nylon canvas and threshed on clean  material to avoid impurities. Winnowing enable separating the grain from the pods. The term winnowing is the blowing of the grain with wind to clean and free it from dirt and plant straw material. Care is taken to make sure the grains are winnowed when it is fairly windy to avoid wastage. In some cases much of the grain end up thrown far away and increasing loss by omission to the storage bag.

Women do most of the tasks of harvesting, threshing and winnowing in Kenya. While in some countries mechanized operations are used to harvest large acreage of bean crop. The process includes hand-picking and heaping together in one place as pods or whole plants. Women and youth do most of the threshing manually. The grains are winnowed in windy times to remove the shaft and clean the grains.

Storage of Grain

Dry beans are stored in insecticide treated gunny or air-tight hermetic bags which help to prevent major damages caused by storage pests. In the absence of hermetic bags, it is advisable to use an insecticide dust to prevent damage of grain while in the store. Bags should be placed on pallets, not directly on the floor. Green beans can be refrigerated for 8-10 days to eliminate any bruchids in grain before storage. Dried beans can be stored in a cool, dry place for up to a year or more.

Kindly note that if a farmer will use the bean harvest as seed, they should NOT store the proposed seed for planting in hermetic bags, as the bags work on principle of air exclusion. This exclusion of air lead to early death of seed in 4-6months. Such grain will not grow. Thus, insecticide treatment is suitable for seed grain.

Marketing of Bean Grain

The dry bean is one commodity that is much traded in Kenya and especially by women. Despite  progress in increasing production and productivity, farmers from one end of the region normally  complain there is lack of market while in another place traders are decrying lack of bean grain to trade.

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Reasons for lack of market on beans farming in Kenya:

  • Inadequate skills/information to get best prices for their bean produce
  • Low quality of the bean grain and especially admixtures
  • Low negotiating skills especially where contracts are involved
  • Low production and marketing knowledge.

Reasons for lack of enough volumes for traders:

  • Wrong variety for the prevailing demand
  • Competition among the various bean traders
  • Low supply of preferred grain/ variety from the production areas
  • Low prices offered per bag of bean grain
  • Poor gender interaction among the actors along the bean value chain.

To make money on beans farming in Kenya, farmers prefer nearest market for their grain. Two types of marketing arrangements are available: spot market transactions and collective marketing.

Spot market transactions is the most preferred marketing channel, probably due to the fact that a farmer transacts his produce privately.

It is an informal marketing pathway bringing on board local assemblers, brokers and traders who buy common beans from small scale farmers. On the other hand, collective marketing is a more bidding marketing model for dry beans. It involves  smallholders marketing farm produce through farmer organizations, contract farming or out grower schemes to formal institutions. It’s a formal relationship in which large buyers such as grain marketing boards, food processors, wholesalers, supermarkets, schools, hospitals, exporters and relief agencies enter into formal or informal agreement.

Nevertheless, the two marketing channels depend on demand and supply of a bean variety produce in the target market.

Agribusiness in Beans Farming Enterprise In Kenya

Agribusiness is the business of undertaking agricultural production. It earns most or all its revenues from agriculture. This includes agriculture inputs, crops and animal production, distribution, farm  machinery, processing as well as marketing and retailing of the products.
In order to succeed in agribusiness of bean farming, the farmers need meet the set grain standards  to attract more market players. Farmers in a village or group also need to be discussing with  extension providers and to each other on their production plans and choice of varieties so that they can achieve tradable volumes. Low volumes in a village will mean transaction costs are high.
Choice of growing one or two varieties, for a specific market will give focus of the bean enterprise. This helps in maintaining the specific bean variety purity and buyers knowing where the supplier is.
To achieve good quality bean grain that can meet the grain standard markets, farmers need to use good agricultural practises and follow as much as possible guidelines in this manual. The current marketing system especially by brokers does not benefit the farmer who has low bargaining power. Hence, structured marketing and collective marketing, ensures profitable sells for the farmer.One of the procedures to get quality bean produce is cleaning and sorting to meeting high quality purity of grain. These standards are important especially for the bean processing factories.

Various bean varieties are used to make various bean products.

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