The so-called "super bean," a fast-maturing, high-yield variety, is being promoted by Uganda's government and agriculture experts amid efforts to feed hunger-prone parts of Africa, the AP reports. It's also a step toward the next goal: the "super, super bean" that researchers hope can be created through genetic editing. The beans are thrilling farmers in an impoverished part of northern Uganda that also strains under the recent arrival of more than 1 million refugees from its war-torn neighbor, South Sudan. The International Center for Tropical Agriculture says the beans have been bred by conventional means to resist the drought conditions that can lead to starvation as arable land disappears.
The group operates one of just two bean "gene banks" in Africa, which is expected to be hit hardest by climate change even though the continent produces less than 4% of the world's greenhouse gases, according to the UN Development Program. Beans kept at the two banks are sent to partners in 30 countries across the continent to be developed further so they can cope with local conditions. The Uganda bank stores around 4,000 types of beans, including some sourced from neighboring Rwanda before its 1994 genocide killed around 800,000 people and wiped out many of the country's bean varieties. Aid workers hope the beans will encourage the refugees to grow their own food rather than rely on handouts, which in some cases have been cut because of funding shortages.