Welcome. The pulses stories blog aims to communicate the importance of pulses in our everyday lives.

Video: These are my pulses - Turkey

08/04/2016

Selçuk Şahin is a bean cultivator in Bilecik, Turkey, and has over 75 acres of field. For the past 4 generations, Selçuk’s family has worked in bean cultivating, making him an expert in the field. Engineers are involved in every process of the cultivation of his family’s beans, ensuring supervision of experts to help create the best beans in Turkey. Chemical products aren’t used in the Bilecik region, allowing them to protect their fields from damages by using marigold and bay-trees. This video includes the pulse farming story of Selçuk Şahin, to help promote the cultivation of pulses for the International Year of Pulses.

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Pulses Set Racing at Victoria Falls

22/03/2016

This blog post was written by Robynne Anderson and was originally published on the Huffington Post.

Normally, Livingstone is home to 150,000 Zambians and international tourists seeking out the unique beauty of the Victoria Falls.
This week, Livingstone has also been host to the Pan African Grain Legume and World Cowpea Conference, the first conference dedicated to boosting pulse productivity, nutrition and processing in Africa. It could be a potential milestone in the fight against global hunger.

The four hundred academics, NGOs and scientists are here to do something really important: turn around the lack of investment in agricultural research and development, which is handicapping the ability of poor, small holder African farmers to fight climate change, boost productivity and feed their families.

It's not that money isn't invested into agricultural productivity. It is. But many crops don't' attract their 'fair share' of investment. For example, pulses. The shame is these crops, often known as 'orphan crops' because they get ignored by funders, are potentially vital in the fight to deliver the UN's Sustainable development Goals (SDGs) because of their nutrition-density, affordability and positive impact on soil, which is why the UN FAO has declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses.

This lack of investment was underlined prior to the Pan African Grain Legume and World Cowpea Conference, when a new global survey, showed agricultural researchers are concerned the current level of research funding into pulses is so low it may be handicapping efforts to improve food security and agricultural sustainability.

Called the 'Global Pulse Productivity & Sustainability Survey', the survey suggests annual investment in pulses hovers at $175m, whereas billions are invested into other crops such as corn.

There are some major contributors to global funding for pulse crop productivity and sustainability research such as CGIAR, USAID and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Most countries in North America and Europe maintain an international funding agency. Others have national funding programs. But is it enough?

"No. Bottom line: we need a 10-fold increase in pulse research funding," according to Huseyin Arslan, President of the Global Pulse Confederation, which commissioned the survey. "With over 800 million people suffering from acute or chronic undernourishment, increasing pulse research is vital. We can only meet the world's protein needs with better varieties of chickpeas, peas, beans, and lentils." 
Which brings us back to Livingstone.

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Guess what’s for dinner? Healthy, nutritious fish byproduct powder...and pulses!

15/03/2016

Admittedly, when you’re planning tonight’s dinner menu, it’s not the first answer that springs to mind. But fish byproducts – the commonly ‘wasted’ parts of fish, like the head, viscera and backbone – are often particularly high in micronutrients.

And, as we address the need to sustainably increase fish production to meet a growing demand, while at the same time tackling the large portion of fish and seafood that make up the over 1 billion tonnes of food that are wasted each year, we need to come up with creative ways to fully utilize our food products.

Fish byproducts offer one promising opportunity to mainstream sustainable approaches into our dietary choices. They have an added benefit of providing a nutritional boost to the most vulnerable populations.

As FAO Fishery Industry Officer and nutrition expert Jogeir Toppe notes, “When fish is processed, we separate the fillet, or the meat, from the rest of the fish. The fillet is the most valuable part of the fish – at least in economic terms.

The paradox is that, in terms of nutrition, the remaining parts are the most valuable nutritionally, since the micronutrients are mainly concentrated there. Minerals such as iron, zinc, calcium, phosphorus and vitamins, including vitamins A and B12 are found in significant amounts in the parts generally disposed of and never consumed.”

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Species diversity helps farmers reap the potential of pulses

08/03/2016

By Devra I. Jarvis, Principal Scientist, Bioversity International

The common bean is an unsung hero, and especially important in East and Central Africa and parts of Latin America. As well as improving the fertility of the soil in which it grows and providing farmers with a reliable income stream, it is the most important plant-based protein source for the people of Uganda, providing between 20 and 25% of the protein of the local diet.

 In many cases, however, bean yields are lower than they could be. This presents clear opportunities for beneficial interventions and — especially pertinent in this International Year of the Pulses — demonstrates the value of considering the full potential of pulses.

In Uganda, for example, bean yields are consistently 20% lower than their possible levels, largely because of damage by pests and diseases. Some parts of Uganda bean yield losses of up to 25% as a result of attacks by Bean Fly, Angular Leaf Spot (ALS) or Anthracnose. Research undertaken by Bioversity International shows that when farmers grow three or more bean varieties in their fields their crops sustain significantly less damage than those on plots with few varieties, particularly in years when there is a high incidence of disease.

In Ecuador, the picture is different. Smallholder farmers already plant their beans in mixtures and generally stick to traditional varieties (almost 90% of the beans sown in Ecuador are of traditional varieties). Despite using few or no pesticides, these farmers suffer low levels of pest and disease damage — less than 3% in 2012. Yet work with farmer groups in bean trials revealed there was nonetheless room for improvement. 

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Farmers in Benin adopt new natural enemies to fight pod borers in cowpea

29/02/2016

by Manuele (Manu) Tamò

Damage caused by pod borer Maruca vitrata, the most destructive pest of cowpeas, can lead a loss of up to USD 3 billion per year in West Africa alone. To reduce the losses, farmers resort to spraying insecticides, most often inappropriate ones and without protective equipment and gear, thereby exposing themselves and their families to serious health hazards. The damage by the caterpillars of the pod borers can cause up to 80% damage on cowpea farms. Worse, over the years the pod borer has developed resistance to the most common pesticides, and farmers are responding to this by increasing the frequency of pesticide application, thereby exacerbating the problem.

To solve this, researchers of the CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes (Grain Legumes) at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) have recently introduced two parasitic wasps (parasitoids), Therophilus javanus and Phanerotoma syleptae, that will act as natural enemies to fight pod borers in cowpeas. 

Initially, two rural farmer communities in southern Benin have adopted these new small wasps for sustainably fighting the pod borer. These parasitic wasps will actively search for the target pest in cowpea flowers and pods, and lay eggs inside the caterpillars of the pest, which will hatch and destroy the pest from inside. With these wasps, the smallholder farmers now have a natural, safer, cheaper and environment-friendly ally to fight the pod borer and reduce losses.

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When stakes are at stake

19/02/2016

This blog story was originally written by Paul Van Mele and originally published on the Agro-Insight website.

Fred, the driver, keeps on changing gears as we wind our way up and down the hills of southwestern Uganda. The landscape is stunning and when we reach Kisoro just before sunset I realize we are just 10 kilometers from the border with DR Congo and Rwanda. The last orange light gives our eyes a last treat, a view of one of the majestic volcanoes with its head in the clouds. We are now nearly 2000 meters above sea level and the weather is cool. The rich volcanic soils have made this part of the country a major bean and potato growing area, supplying not only the people in the capital city, Kampala, but also in the neighbouring countries.

With land having become a scarce commodity, it is frightening to see how even the steepest slopes are under cultivation. And farmers have shifted en masse from growing bush beans to growing climbing beans. Five kilogram of bush bean seed gives farmers a harvest of about 100 kilograms, but the same amount of climbing bean seed easily yields 250 kilograms. The abundant leaves of climbing beans and the nitrogen they fix also helps to keep the soil fertile. No wonder that farmers have welcomed with open arms the climbing beans that CIAT and NARO introduced. (In 1984, the first improved climbing bean varieties from CIAT were officially released and promoted in Rwanda and then gradually into neighbouring countries).

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An Englishman in New York for the International Year of Pulses 2016

19/02/2016

This blog post was written by Milan Shah and originally published on LinkedIn.

Was Ban Ki-moon looking for a spare seat as he repeatedly traversed our dining area on the 4th floor of the United Nations Headquarters? Of course, he had an open invitation to join our peas, beans and lentils themed lunch in celebratory anticipation of the forthcoming International Year of Pulses 2016, which the UN General Assembly had declared back in December 2013. But why such a formal designation to promote this ancient and humble set of crops? As the Secretary General had stated just the previous week, the world should eat more pulses:

“Pulse crops, such as lentils, beans, peas and chickpeas, are a vital source of plant-based proteins and amino acids. Despite strong evidence of the health and nutritional benefits of pulses, the consumption of pulses remains low in many developing and developed countries.”

The mandate to facilitate the year sits with the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, based in Rome, and it offers an opportunity to watch the specialised agency in action on two fronts: the Sustainable Development Goals and strategic alliances.

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