Common bean is the most important food legume for direct human consumption with over 23 million hectares grown worldwide. Brazil and India are the world’s leading producers of dry beans, accounting for about one third of world production. By region, Latin America is the largest producer of common bean, with some 5.5 million metric tons produced annually – Brazil and Mexico being the major producers. Africa is the second most important region, producing about 2.5 million metric tons, with Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, and Congo leading. China and Indonesia are the world leaders in green bean production, accounting for about half of world production.
For more than 300 million people in the tropics, an inexpensive bowl of common beans is the centerpiece of the daily diet. It provides important quantities of dietary protein, complex carbohydrates, and valuable micronutrients. Over 200 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa depend on the crop as a primary staple, with beans contributing to diet and incomes in over 24 countries in this region alone. Consumption is as high as 66 kg/year/person, and in many areas, common bean is the second most important source of calories after maize, as well being a major source of proteins and minerals in the diet.
Millions of small farmers in Latin America and Africa rely on the production and sale of beans as an important source of household income. However, in Sub-saharan-Africa, typical bean yields, represent only 20 to 30% of the genetic potential of improved varieties due to major production risks such as insect pests, disease and drought, which – due to climate change – is increasing in severity and frequency in the region. Drought affects production of common beans in most of Eastern Africa, but is especially severe in the mid-altitudes of Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and Zimbabwe, as well as in Southern Africa as a whole.