Roles that can be played by Pulses
Legume crops, which are also called pulses, nourish the land, the people, self-reliance and the economy. They enrich the soil and protect it from erosion and are often intercropped with small grains. Some of them are well-adapted to harsh conditions associated with climate change and variability. Pulses have high nutritional value for consumers and for their livestock and they can be sold at relatively good prices. The productivity of pulses is generally lower than that of maize, especially maize in high potential areas but their nutrition density is superior. In addition, small scale farmers, especially women, control the production and exchange of the seed of most pulses, making them an asset in the struggle for seed and food
Strategies for mainstreaming pulses into production systems and diets for agroecological farmers who (already) include legumes in their farming systems:
- Mobilise other non-practising farmers to shift towards legume-rich farming systems and let them know the associated range of benefits;
- Increase the volumes, quality, accessibility and availability of quality legume seed, through getting training seed production and multiplication, working with public gene banks to access seeds not longer available in-situ, developing community seed banks and holding community seed fairs;
- Form commodity associations that are based on pulses;
- Run awareness campaigns (in partnership with supportive CSOs) targeting multiple actors, especially consumers, children and youth in schools and colleges to change their attitudes towards consuming traditional food and pulses;
- Add value to legumes and work with the food and nutrition sector to develop, hold food fairs and promote recipes based on pulses and traditional crops;
- Lobby government and NGOs to include pulses in their input support programmes;
- Influence governments to give legumes more prominence and support in its policies and programmes.
- Put women farmers at the forefront and centre of the struggles for the shift because they grow most of the seed, the pulses, and prepare most of the food consumed;
- Persuade research and extension services to include agroecological agriculture in the research and training work and work with farmers to better understand and integrate legumes into farming systems under different social-ecological conditions; and
- Urge technology developers to produce and supply efficient and affordable tools for the production and processing of legumes and small grains that they are often intercropped with.
The reality is that cowpease is considered as originated in West Africa where 70% is from Nigeria and Niger.There are top five producers of pulses in Africa which include Ethiopia, Nigeria, Niger, Tanzania and Kenya but I am not certain if there are policies supporting these legumes. In Zimbabwe there is a program called The Zimbabee Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation which we hope can be a provision to support and promote these pulses to the extent of coming up with a policy. So these are areas which need to be worked on.