Tapping the full potential of pulses

How do pulses contribute to household food security? What challenges do farmers face during production? What role do pulses play in climate change adaptation and mitigation?

These are just some of the questions participants addressed during an online discussion hosted by FAO’s Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition (FSN Forum).

The FSN Forum is an online platform based on the rationale that food security and nutrition issues benefit from discussions and leverage of a large community of people.

Counting over 10,000 members, the FSN Forum reflects FAO’s role as a neutral knowledge broker by engaging academics, researchers, development practitioners and other stakeholders in policy dialogue and knowledge sharing.

During a four-week discussion, people from 32 countries shared experience and knowledge on the challenges of pulses production and consumption and how to address them. The exchange contributed to making the IYP2016 genuinely inclusive.

Participants strongly agreed on the need to promote the consumption of pulses by developing a multisector strategy that responds to local needs and takes into account the dietary habits of different populations.

Approaches to promote consumption should be tailored to factors influencing consumer behavior and should focus on awareness raising and dissemination of information on health benefits of pulses and preparation methods.

There was a broad consensus on the need to support pulses production, as productivity is far below its potential, in particular because of strong competition from more profitable cereal production.

Production challenges should be addressed with a focus on:

  • reducing  the yield gap with cereals;
  • developing high-yielding abiotic/biotic stress-resistant varieties to suite local conditions – especially in infertile soils;
  • improving  extension services and technical assistance for smallholder farmers;
  • and stimulating pulses commercialization through investments in value addition.

"Pulses are Smart Food - Pulses are under-recognized for their value and their importance in diversification and complementing other foods. They are critical for both farmers and consumers.”

David Bergvinson, Director General of ICRISAT

“Members of this forum are not only expressing their opinions about pulses but are also sharing interesting material about pulses around the world. This information will help us to sharpen the focus of the second half of the 2016 International Year of Pulses.”

Teodardo Calles, FAO

Many interventions specifically stressed the important role pulses can play in the context of climate change. Pulses are beneficial to soil health and have broad genetic diversity, which allows for adaptation to changing growing conditions.

Participants referenced a number of studies highlighting the effects of drought on yields and the water-use efficiency of pulses. They also shared research papers on the selection of pulses varieties that can adapt to a changing climate- e.g. cold stress-tolerance and drought tolerance varieties.

The contributions received will feed into the initiatives organized during the IYP.

Read a full summary of the online discussion here.