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Covid 19 & Jack Beans

In many SSA countries small farmers are going hungry…
Some are only surviving beause they have sown Jack beans!
Now they can eat the leaves and pods.There is nothjing else!

Some of these farmers have suffered locust attacks and lost all their crops EXCEPT for the Jack beans!
At the same time they are re-fertilisng their depleted sol!

Dear Graham,
While I appreciate your concern for the people, and in particular small farmers in SSA, I feel I need to reply to your statement and call for caution. SSA covers a VERY large area. And what you are stating may be true for the part of SSA you are familiar with, but in our area (Niger) the situation looks different. Yes, here too, many small farmers struggle with lack of food. But there is very little relation with Covid 19 there. It is, sadly, the prevailing situation year after year because of various interrelated issues too long to discuss here. Furthermore, while it may be possible to grow Jack beans here, it is a completely unknown crop. And even though people know beans (cowpea is grown here) it is certainly not a staple crop. And so introducing Jack beans would signify the introduction of a foreign crop with all the implications related to such an issue; even if people are hungry, growing a new crop is not an easily accepted ‘thing’. Besides that, people have their coping strategies. There are many indigenous shrubs and trees of which the leaves and/or fruits or nuts are edible and quite nutritious (though rather course). And there is a type of wild grain that people use as well. The sad thing is that ‘modern’ agriculture has caused and is continuing to cause the disappearance of these valuable indigenous plants which can help people to survive if their crops fail. In my opinion it is a much more durable (economically and environmentally) option to promote the care and protection of these indigenous plants than the introduction of a foreign crop. I wonder if that option (ie the use of indigenous plants for food) is also available in your area?

Jeannette Gaïtou-Baas
Agricultural manager Sowing Seeds of Change in the Sahel

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Dear Jeanette,
There may well be some SSA countries where Jack beans are not found but according to my information it grows wild in Niger. It may not be cropped, as in Nigeria, but it is an indigenous plant.
There are many scare stories about jack beans but hundreds of small farmers are now existing on nothing but Jack beans after their crops have failed or been eaten by locusts.
It is is the perfect emergency crop!
I could go into more details but it might be best if anyone interested emails me at