Mung bean farmer, Wendeilina in Malaka, Timor Island, Indonesia.
The mighty mung beans generate a triple benefit for smallholder farmers — additional income, affordable nutrient-rich food, and increased soil fertility. They’re also low maintenance, have minimal production costs, and a short growing time. It’s no surprise that they’re a popular crop, with more than 750,000 farmers in Indonesia planting these green beans annually. A staple in meals across the region and used in both sweet and savoury dishes, the mung bean has potential, both for farmers and their families.
Despite being a favourite for farmers, mung bean productivity is low. This is largely due to a lack of high-yielding seed varieties and poor farming techniques. Farmers rely on retained seeds, or seeds that they harvest from their own crops, which have lower yields than certified seeds.
Buyers also lack experience sourcing mung bean locally since they mainly procure imported mung beans.
Where to Start to Improve Productivity?
In 2014, the government-owned legume research institute Balitkabi was already releasing a new series of high-yielding, improved mung bean varieties. However, seed producers were not aware of its availability or potential.
Seeing an opportunity to promote and commercialise these new varieties, PRISMA (a partnership between the Indonesian and Australian Governments to build inclusive agriculture markets) supported Balitkabi with a market study and convinced the institute to make several parent seed varieties available to seed companies.
In tandem, PRISMA worked with a multi-national vegetable seed company and two local nurseries to see the benefits of the market potential for high-yielding certified mung bean seed and connected these companies with Balitkabi. Within a very short period (from 2018 to today) 13% of the mung bean market is now using certified high-yielding seeds instead of retained seeds.
What This Means for Farmers and Businesses
The growth in the certified seed market is a business opportunity. For local mung bean producer CV Semi, mung beans’ prevalence and the big gains in productivity for farmers from switching seeds make it an attractive proposition.
“Mung bean plantations are all over Indonesia. We saw an opportunity to expand our production so that we could produce high-quality, high-yielding seeds that farmers need,” explains Anthony Susilo, Director of CV Semi.
PRISMA worked with CV Semi, and other producers to gain access and produce certified seeds that they can then sell to the open market. The end game is a sustainable business that can help improve productivity for farmers.
For Wendeilina, a married farmer with 7 children in Malaka on the island of Timor, the certified seeds have resulted in big changes to her crops. “The best thing about the certified seed is that the productivity is so much better. With local seed I achieved around 500 kilograms from my one hectare of land,” she says. “When I used the certified seed, I achieved 1.3 tonnes. That’s almost three times the productivity level for this area. For my land I need 25 kilograms of seed to plant.”
Certified seed costs Wendeilina Rp.25,000 (AUD$2.5) per kilo. This was a big investment for her to experiment with, but the output is worth the investment. “I’m happy planting this variety. The harvest is better so I am happy,” she adds. “I can sell it for more money and buy medicine for my child. Buy her the food she likes so she’s healthy.”
Now, 13% of the market is using certified mung bean seed, indicating a system-wide shift, positively impacting over 24,000 households across Indonesia and a critical start at addressing the country’s food security issues. For the team, supporting the shift within the marketplace is a massive success - when individuals adopt farming innovations and continue to embed that change within their own community networks free of intervention or influence.
PRISMA is a Palladium-implemented development partnership between the Government of Australia (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) and the Government of Indonesia (Bappenas). The multi-year development partnership aims to accelerate poverty reduction through promoting inclusive economic growth. For more on PRISMA's work with mung bean in Indonesia, watch the short film, or contact email@example.com.