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Master of Agribusiness

Income and Bean Consumption Patterns in Zambia

Winnie Pele, Lusaka, Zambia, defended her thesis, “Income and Bean Consumption Patterns in Zambia” on May 12, 2015. She is an Agriculture Client Solution Consultant for Barclays Bank Zambia. Pele is a spring graduate from Kansas State University with a Master of Agribusiness (MAB) degree.

In its commitment to reduce poverty and increase nutrition, the Government of the Republic of Zambia has been exploring policies that would improve consumption of nutritious food products, such as beans and other legumes and pulses. Beans offer a variety of potential benefits to diets and incomes of smallholder producers. It has a high protein content of about 40% in addition to being a profitable cash crop.

“The purpose of this thesis was to identify the effect of income on expenditure share allocations among different food groups. The study was particularly interested in how changes in incomes affect the share of bean expenditures,” Pele said. “It is important to recognize that because beans are perceived as a poor man’s meat, its consumption may not be very attractive to those whose incomes are increasing. I expected that as incomes increase, people will reduce the share of their income devoted to bean consumption as they increase their consumption of animal products.”

Her research shows that Zambians allocate about 40% of their food expenditure to cereals compared to 5% to pulses and only 3.5% to beans. A higher proportion of their food expenditure is allocated to fruits and vegetables than to beans and/or pulses, providing further confirmation that legumes are low on the food hierarchy in Zambia.

The results suggest that if the long-term objective is to reap the nutritional benefits of beans, there may be value in focusing on two principal policy variables: education and income enhancement. Investing in increasing education, especially for females who make family meal decisions, is found to increase bean consumption. Using outreach and other initiatives to enhance consumer awareness about the nutritional value of beans could contribute to improving its share of food expenditure.    

Dr. Vincent Amanor-Boadu, Professor of Agricultural Economics and Pele’s thesis advisor, said, “Winnie’s thesis fills a gap in our knowledge about the position of beans in the food hierarchy effect of income on bean consumption in Zambia. It shows that for beans to overcome this traditional location on the food hierarchy, a lot more has to be done through outreach and public education to change the image of beans as ‘a poor man’s meat.’”

The full thesis publication can be found online on Kansas State University’s Research Exchange at http://hdl.handle.net/2097/19751.