Beans, the “meat of the poor”, contribute essential protein to millions in Latin America and Africa. Beans are nutritionally complementary to carbohydrate-rich grains such as maize, and the combination of beans with such staple crops provides the foundation for a diet providing all of the essential amino acids needed for a complete vegetable protein. Beans are also rich in essential micronutrients such as iron and folic acid (one of the B vitamins especially important for pregnant woman). Common bean is currently cultivated on a significant scale in at least 117 countries.
Beans display an impressive array of colors, textures and tastes, and plants differ from bushes to climbing vines, annual or perennial. Beans can be grown from sea level to over 3,000 meters in a huge variety of climates and soils, and are often intercropped with other food plants in traditional farming systems.