Bean stakes innovations: Long woody stakes that are crossed | Crop Management (Crop Varieties)

Due to severe shortage of woody stakes, farmers were using veryshort and weak sticks. Most of these stakes would collapse easily before thecrop matures due to the heavy weight of the plants as a result of the highplant vigour and pod yields exhibited by the new improved varieties. This wouldresult into rotting of the plants leading to loss of the expected yields.Therefore, a number of bean stake innovations were developed. These included Read more..

Description of the technology or innovation

Due to severe shortage of woody stakes, farmers were using veryshort and weak sticks. Most of these stakes would collapse easily before thecrop matures due to the heavy weight of the plants as a result of the highplant vigour and pod yields exhibited by the new improved varieties. This wouldresult into rotting of the plants leading to loss of the expected yields.Therefore, a number of bean stake innovations were developed. These included:(i) long woody stakes that are crossed; (ii) woody stakes combined either withstrings, cords or ropes and (iv) live crop stakes.

Long crossed woody stakes

These are strong woody branches which are 2.0–2.5 m high, and improvebean harvests because the stakes are strong enough to sustain the weight of theplants (Figure 1) until harvest time. Crossing the stakes helps them to offeradditional support to each other and helps the climbing beans to continueentwining onto the two or three stakes depending on what the farmer prefers.This offers the advantage of hiding the bean flowers from the birds which are amajor pest of bean flowers.


Woody stakes combined with strings, cords or ropes

These are strong woody poles for constructing a frame on which thebeans climb (Figure 2). They improve bean harvest and require less woodymaterials. The frame helps farmers to use raw materials like cords, bananafibre and ropes, sisal strings and ropes and others depending on the availableraw materials. The woody poles are spaced 3m apart within the row and 50cmbetween rows. Thinner poles or branches are used to connect the poles to oneanother. The strings/ropes/cords are used to guide the beans to climb. They arespaced at 40 cm and each supports 4 bean plants or less depending on thegermination rate. The strings are pushed firmly into the ground between twoimmediate planting positions within the row. This offers the advantage ofreducing the expenditure on woody stakes. Also, due to the smaller size of thestrings, the leaves hide the bean flowers from birds which are major pests ofbean flowers.

Figure 1: Long woody stakes crossed.        Figure 2: Woody stakes combined with strings/cords/ropes.

Live crop stakes (cassava, banana and maize)

This is a staking method that allows small family plots (30 m2or more) to sustain more than one crop (Figure 3a; 3b) with minimal competitionbetween different crops. It is highly suitable for households that lack woodystakes. It requires farmers to intercrop using the right spacing and gives thefirst crop sufficient time to establish itself before the second crop isplanted.


These intercropping systems have been tested and promoted inBurundi, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda.

Assessment/reflection on utilization, dissemination & scaling out or up approaches used

This bean innovation targets mainly farmers, the local government,extension agents, research and university institutions. Individuals, farmers,associations and cooperatives, and predominantly, women’s organizations werealso involved in bean staking project activities. Farmer Field Schools,demonstrations, on-farm trials and exchange visits, formal training oftrainers, documentaries, fact sheets and other visual materials were some ofthe scaling approaches used to disseminate the bean staking innovations.However, in the future, it’s envisaged that scaling will rely on FFS andexchange visits because of their effectiveness.

Current situation and future scaling up

This is a simple innovation with the advantage of not requiringspecialist skills for farmers to undertake. Though the practice on its own isgender neutral, it is important to look out and ensure that commercializationof the bean crop, does not turn an enterprise traditionally considered awomen's domain into the control of men. This practice is not affected bydrought and the increased production it generates is associated with increasedresilience. On the other hand, this practice offsets losses that may arise dueto excessive rainfall arising from changes in climate.  All these attributes support household foodsecurity, protein intake and nutrition security in general, rendering thepractice relevant for promotion of bean production in the wetter parts of theECA region.

Economic Considerations

Supporting beans and using intercrops for staking enhancesdiversity of products from the garden, and significantly increases productivityand profitability of bean farming. This practice, therefore, has potential forgenerating additional household income from avoided bean yield losses. The costof purchasing stakes and labor for staking can in some contexts be high, butthis is counteracted by the resultant yield increase. This practice furtherboosts trade in stakes, which in turn creates employment.

Gender considerations

The bean staking innovations are gendersensitive since they consider all gender aspects. Under the bean croppingsystems project, all family members able to work together; and utilize thegenerated technologies (bean varieties) and innovations (woody and live stakes)to increase productivity thus improving food and income security.

Figure3a: Maize used as been stakesFigure3b: Cassava as bean stakes.

Contact details

Vicky Ruganzu;

Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB);

Huye, Rwanda.

Tel: +250 788562938



Peter Sallah;

National University of Rwanda (NUR);

Butare, Rwanda.

Tel: +250 78 873 3141



Sylvestre Ntibashirwa;

Institut des Sciences Agronomiques du Burundi (ISABU);

BP 795;

Bujumbura, Burundi.

Tel: +257 7751728



Elukessu Komba;

Institut des National des Etudes et de la Recherche Agronomique(INERA/ Mulungu);

Democratic Republic of Congo.

Tel: +243 859465500


Additional information

Under the live crop stakes innovation,instead of the farmers planting the intercrops together with the climbing beanslike they previously used to do, they were advised to plant them at differenttimes. The project demonstrated that even in very small plots of 30 m2 or more,planting the maize two weeks and cassava and banana one year before plantingthe climbing beans makes it possible for the two intercrops to grow to maturityas long as recommended spacing is observed for the different intercroppingcomponents. In case of maize, the project recommended a spacing of 100 cmbetween rows instead of the 75 cm used for the monocrop and 25 cm within rowsand planting two seeds per hole. Meanwhile, in cassava and banana the between-and within-row spacing of 1–1.5 m (depending on the soil fertility) wasrecommended. The project also recommended a bean row spacing of 25 cm away fromthe row of the other intercrop and 50 cm between the bean rows plus awithin-row spacing of 20 cm. It is crucial that sufficient space be providedfor the beans such that; the bean row spaced at 25 cm away from the maize rowand 50 cm from another bean row. Spacing the beans at more than 25 cm makes itdifficult for them to climb the intercrop (maize or cassava or banana) and thusthe intercrop fails to offer the necessary support. Each row of the intercropsupports the two rows of beans (the upper and lower row). The garden startswith a row of beans, then the intercrop, then two rows of beans and the row ofthe intercrop and the sequence continues and ends with a row of beans next tothe intercrop.


Key facts about production of climbingbeans

  • Farmers on average use 5354 stakes/acre.
  • Seed costs range from 3000–4000 Ush/acre.
  • Stakes can be used for a period of 4 seasons (2 years).
  • Unit cost of a stake was estimated at 120 Ush.
  • Cost of stakes placement is 46,400 Ush/acre.
  • Stakes are about 2.5 m in height.
  • The major source of the stakes was local markets and farmers’ own woodlots
  • Yield of local varieties is 285.4–628.82 kg/acre but improved varieties yield 2 to 3 times more.
  • Average production cost is about 755,000 Ush/acre.
  • Gross income is about 911,775 Ush/acre
  • Net income was estimated at 136,775 Ushs/acre


When the farmers use intercrops theyonly spend on the seed for the two crops and this cuts the cost of productiontremendously.


Table 1: Economic evaluation of bean stakes utilization


High land ranges

Northeastern/western savannah grasslands

Lake Victoria crescent

Western savannah grasslands

South western farmlands

Production costs (Low input) (Ush)






Average yields (Kg)






Average market prices (Ush)






Gross income (Ush)






Net Income







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