Jeanine Ndayizeye of Burundi threshes her bean harvest.

Harvesting Climbing Beans: A How-To Guide in Photos

Our farmers in Rwanda and Burundi show us how to expertly harvest climbing beans.

Harvesting Beans, One Step at a Time

Photos by Hailey Tucker and Evariste Bagambiki.

From February to May, One Acre Fund farmers in Rwanda and Burundi spend an enormous amount of time and energy on their climbing beans. The harvesting process for beans is intensive and involves multiple steps.

This May, we photographed farmers in both countries harvesting their climbing beans. 

Farmers often use sticks placed in crisscrossed patterns for stability for their beans to climb on.  If they do not have access to sticks, some will use maize stalks from the previous season.

Beans collage

Farmers allow their beans to dry in the sun before harvesting. Then, once the beans are relatively dry, they either break the maize stalks or pull the support sticks the beans climb on from the ground to begin untangling the strands.

Beans drying on side of house
Eugenie Mukamwiza’s beans hang outside her house in Rwanda to dry further.

After harvesting the beans, farmers will often hang the bean strands outside their homes so the pods dry even further. After the beans are completely dried, then they are ready for “threshing.”

Jeanine Ndayizeye of Burundi threshes her bean harvest.
Jeanine Ndayizeye of Burundi threshes her bean harvest.

“Bean threshing” is the process of hitting dried beans with a large stick or mallet. Farmers thresh their beans to knock the beans loose from the pods.

Victorie Nyiratebuka of Rwanda winnows her beans
Victorie Nyiratebuka of Rwanda winnows her beans

After threshing, farmers then “winnow” and “sift” their beans. “Winnowing” is the process of shaking and tossing the beans into the air from a large, flat basket specially designed for this task. “Sifting” involves sliding the beans around the basket to separate out non-bean and bad bean pieces. Both winnowing and sifting allow the farmers to sort out lightweight particles and leftover pod pieces from threshing.

Victorie sifts the beans and sorts through them by hand.

After winnowing, sifting, and sorting their beans, farmers are left with pure beans. They will then cook, store, and sell their harvests as they see fit.

Despite some areas receiving less rain this year than is typical, the majority of the farmers we work with in both Rwanda and Burundi reported successful bean harvests for 2014. We appreciate all the hard work that goes into bean harvesting, so we’re thrilled with their success.

Farmers from Rwanda and Burundi smile with their climbing beans.



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