FAO highlights role of pulses in fighting hunger and achieving healthy diets for all

As FAO observes the World Pulses Day, the Director-General stresses pulses’ potential for sustainable development

7 February 2020, Rome - FAO Director-General QU Dongyu today highlighted pulses' crucial role in addressing food insecurity and achieving healthy and balanced diets for all, pointing to the need to unlock their full potential to accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda.

The Director-General made the remarks at a special ceremony at FAO Headquarters in Rome, in which FAO observed World Pulses Day. In particular, he called for an increase in research and extension services for farmers growing all kinds of pulses.

Pulses have a higher selling price than other staple crops, he said, noting that pulses offer an important cash crop opportunity to smallholders, while also contributing towards environmental and biodiversity goals.

Pulses are a "beautiful piece in the puzzle", QU said, highlighting that the crops present a wide range of flavors and adapt to different landscapes. He also urged FAO Member States to encourage ways of including pulses in snack food products.

The FAO Director-General reiterated FAO's commitment to continue working with all partners on improving the production and consumption of pulses as a means to contribute to healthy nutrition - especially the micronutrient needs of children and of elderly people - and sustainable agricultural and food systems. "We need the private sector, farmers, governments and academia to work together with us," he concluded.

Today's ceremony also saw the participation of Cindy Brown, President of Global Pulse Confederation (GPC); Jenny Chandler, Special Ambassador for 2016 International Year of Pulses; Joyce Boye, Director-General Prairie Region, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada; and Zoltán Kálmán, Permanent Representative of Hungary among others.

Why pulses are so important?

Pulses - the edible seeds of legume plants, such as lentils, chickpeas and Bambara beans - contain substantial amounts of micronutrients, dietary fibre and minerals, and are an important source of plant protein.

Pulses are also known for their ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen, catalyzing the creation of high-quality organic matter in soils and facilitate water retention. These characteristics help farmers reduce their use of fertilizers and energy in arable agricultural systems, which also reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

About the Day

Building on the successful implementation of the 2016 International Year of Pulses, with FAO playing the leading role in the campaign, the United Nations General Assembly, at its 73rd session in December 2018, endorsed the request made by the government of Burkina Faso regarding the annual observance of the World Pulses Day on 10 February.

The theme of the World Pulses Day 2020 is "Plant proteins for a sustainable future", aiming to highlight the role of pulses as an important source of plant protein and its valuable contribution to the 2030 Agenda.

Photo: ©FAO/Pier Paolo Cito
Director-General QU Dongyu speaks at the World Pulses day event at FAO headquarters.