Every year on February 10th, World Pulses Day is observed to increase recognition of the significance of pulses, which are dried legume seeds. The theme for World Pulses Day 2023 is “Pulses for a Sustainable Future”
Pulses are versatile and can be used for a variety of dishes ranging from soups and stews to salads. They can also be processed into different products such as flour and other products to add value.
The production of pulses has been on a steep decline which threatens their sustainability despite them being key in providing nutrients and playing a critical role in global food security and the sustainability of the ecosystem.
This has led to the adoption of this year’s theme which aims to increase production and consumption for a more sustainable future by encouraging their use in agriculture, food trade, and nutrition programs, and creating innovations for value addition.
Importance of Pulses
Source of nutrients
Pulses are excellent sources of plant-based proteins, making them valuable food sources, especially for vegetarians who have tied options for obtaining essential nutrients. They are rich in fiber that helps to improve digestion and control blood sugar.
In the food groups list they contain the highest carbohydrate content that promotes satiety. Additionally, they are rich sources of iron which is responsible for blood formation.
Soaking pulses before cooking improves the bioavailability of nutrients and promotes gut health. Other micronutrients are potassium and folate.
Pules require less farm input investment such as fertilizers and pesticides and need less water to grow. Green grams are a good example that does well in semi-arid areas such as Makeuni and Baringo Counties in Kenya.
Additionally, pulse crops fix nitrogen in the soil, which helps to improve soil health and fertility, and reduces the need for additional fertilizers. They enhance biodiversity and climate change resilience.
Pulses are high-value crops in the market space compared to other staples. Beans for instance sell at Ksh 150 on average in the Kenyan markets which is double the maize price. A 90 kg bag will go at Ksh 13,500. They are easily available in most food markets and it is easy to store them, a quality attributed to their long seed dormancy.
Source of livelihoods
Many women and youths are employed through the pulses value chain, starting at the farm level, distribution, value addition to vendor dispense to consumers as raw food or cooked food in the local food outlets. Pulses have promoted a lot of entrepreneurial capacities in the post-harvest management of pulses such as solar drying.
Pulses are easily accessible to many people globally and therefore the most consumed source of proteins. Currently, they are the most consumed in urban areas due to improved convenience. Moreover, they are staples in more than 50% of African communities. The long shelf life reduces food loss.
Improve crop production
Pulses in multiple cropping and crop rotation enhance agrobiodiversity that promotes soil health and controls the spread of crop diseases. Nitrogen fixation improves soil fertility which intern increases the yields.
At FSPN Africa we are providing digital avenues that will help farmers access information on certified high-quality seeds with high-yielding capacity that will in turn improve nutrition status and agricultural returns.
Certified seeds have less seed dormancy and a high germination rate. The seeds are also acclimatized to different regions.
For the ASAL areas, we are in the pipeline of working with partners to provide extension services and ensure farmers access drought-resistant varieties that take short time to mature as a sustainable way to produce legumes, the later pulses after drying.
A series of recently released biofortified high-iron bean (HIB) by Alliance of Bioversity International and International Center for Tropical Agriculture, offer an effective technology for improving national nutritional security and human health. Most success was achieved in the breeding because the genetic traits are more rapidly transferred and better conserved within improved varieties.
Hermetic storage technology avoids damage of the pulses by preventing movement of moisture and air to the pulses. It saves money (no pesticides needed) and food safety(protect from aflatoxin) is achieved. This is helping farmers to better sell their produce at good prices rather than immediately after harvesting when the markets are at their lowest as a risk avoidance.
This year we build resilient and equitable supply chains for sustainable food and nutrition security. To achieve this great goal we are facilitating market access for farmers and consumers digitally and conveniently to promote the consumption of pulses and ensuring consistent supply to the demanding population.