Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition (FSN Forum)

Pulses: innovations from the field to the cooking pot

Tanzanian production and exports of pulses have both increased rapidly in the last decade. However, the country faces serious challenges in this sector. The lack of innovative recipes, seeds, poor agricultural practices, and the presence of pests and diseases, poor marketing strictures, all end up affecting yields, quality and consumptions.

Iron deficiency anemia is one of the most serious significant public health problems among children of 6 to 59 months and women of child bearing age (15 to 49 years) in Tanzania. According to available data, the national prevalence of anemia is at 59% for children under five years of age and 41% for women of reproductive age (TDHS, 2016).  There have been various remarkable nutrition interventions in the country since 1999 aimed at decreasing the prevalence of (Iron deficiency anemia) IDA; however the problem in the country has persisted and remaining as a public health problem. Iron deficiency anemia impairs the growth and learning ability of children, lowers resistance to infectious diseases and reduces the physical work capacity and productivity of adults. Severe anemia during pregnancy increases the risk of maternal death and of having a low birth weight infant.

 The average per capital consumption in 2007 was only 6.8 gm/day/household while the recommended intake is at least 30 gm/day/household (TNBS, 2010).  Moreover, the consumption trend has been declining over time.  Statistics show that between 2000 and 2009 per capita consumption decreased by 1.4% and the decrease was almost two folds (3.5%) after two years (FAOSTAT, 2014). This trend reflects changes in consumer preferences and failures by suppliers to align pulses attributes to consumer preferences.

Global demand is growing for pulses as a heart-healthy food, however in many cultures, pulses are considered as ‘protein for the poor’. There are a number of reasons why they are underestimated. The most common ones are: they can cause bloating, flatulence, and; unless they are soaked for hours, pulses take a long time to cook.

Despite its nutritional importance, pulse consumption trends in Tanzania has been decreasing from time to time and the factors underlying these could be the household characteristics such as food habits, household size and access to resources among other factors, which can potentially lead to their low consumption. For this reasons above we need to promote interventions to increase intake of pulse rich foods to reduce micronutrient malnutrition and NCDs.

What can be done concretely to increase the consumption of pulses?

Pulses contain some anti-nutrients, which are substances that reduce the body’s ability to absorb the various minerals that pulses contain. Fortunately, many of these issues (bloating, flatulence, anti-nutrients and length of cooking time) can be overcome using traditional cooking techniques, such as soaking, germination (sprouting), fermentation and pounding. Traditional methods can also help to reduce the content of the anti-nutrients. When other foods are combined with pulses, the nutritional value of pulses is further enhanced, as other foods help to ensure that the body is able to better absorb all the nutrients found in pulses; for examples, when beans are eaten with other foods such as grains, the nutritional value of pulses is even greater as the body is better able to absorb iron and other minerals found in pulses.

  • Increase knowledge on pulses utilization for example combine pulses with vitamin C rich foods (a good example is to sprinkle some lemon juice on lentil curry) to increase absorb iron 
  • Design cooking techniques to reduce time of cooking
  • Promote foods which when eaten with pulses can complements in nutrients
  • Promote skills building along the value chain development sector
  • Develop a network of institutions to improve sector coordination
  • Strengthen market development capacities of the sector
  • Capacity-building of key institutions in the “pulses network” to provide support services  and
  • Promote pulses as a viable and growing agricultural sector also improve products quality
  • Develop a network of institutions to improve sector coordination
  • Strengthen market development capacities of the sector
  •  Involve PPP from production processing, finance, technology transfer, farmer support services, trade and seed development.
  • Unleash the power of pulses by publishing  recipes based on pulses and innovative complementary food recipes for children of underfive years old (Greens, Soyee milk, seeds)
  • Develop an efficient storage, warehousing and logistics system as a trading platforms
  • Develop an efficient input distribution network for higher-yielding varieties
  • Improve access to finance along the value chain

  • How can we make pulses an attractive option for farmers?

Consider different models of production along the pulses value chain such as smallholder subsistence agriculture and commercial agriculture. Each of these models have their specificities. Smallholder famers normally are less efficient and relies on intercropping based on lower-yielding seed varieties, produce only for household consumption, rely on rainfall for production, and faces volume consistency challenges. In addition to that, they face a lot of challenges in productivity, postharvest losses, inadequate access to finance, and difficulties in commercialization. Nevertheless, it is an important means of food security in numerous rural regions where almost half of the production is used for household consumption and nutrition security (protein). For, medium-to-large-scale producers generate larger volume of pulses due to more efficient production techniques and easier access to inputs and finance. Large-scale producers focus on the export market. These two models are currently both essential and actually complementary for the development of the pulses sector in the United Republic of Tanzania.

  • What is needed to strengthen pulses value chains?
  • The future value chain need to be characterized by improved input distribution, improved overall coordination and governance, enhanced forward planning and trading capacities, and increased market development and investment attraction
  • Improved seed quality and availability by improve provision of quality seeds, ensure the availability of seeds for increased production, stimulate PPPs and investment in higher-yielding seed development; promote research, develop a number of demonstration plots; and ensure a more accessible knowledge base for pulse cultivation. Moreover, provide a concessional loan scheme for farmers to procure high quality inputs.
  • Improved input distribution network– linked with access to finance, ensure that farmers and farmers’ associations have easy access to relevant inputs to maximize production. Increasing local distribution and production of seeds
  • Development of large-scale agribusiness and contract farming –enable and stimulate the development of agribusiness services to support smallholder farmers to increase their production area, volumes and quality. This is a priority area for investment attraction in the pulses value chain. This will need to be achieved by providing agribusiness services with the status of a strategic investment area. The development of partnerships with agribusiness services in the pulses sector will be essential to ensure easier access to mobile units, mechanization, hermetic cocoons, silos and threshers. Examples such as Quality Food Products for farm mechanization services will contribute to growing the agricultural sector in sophistication.
  • Development of storage, warehouses and logistics-A key success factor of the future value chain is to ensure adequate storage to handle the increasing production of pulses. These storage units of different sizes, most probably connected to structured trading platforms, will act as reserve stocks for supplying large orders or as collateral with the commodity exchange. The development of these storage units will be achieved by proposing the refurbishment of local and regional warehouses through the establishment of rehabilitate, operate and transfer; or rehabilitate, own and operate PPPs
  • An effective pulses network to plan the sector development-The primary objective of the network will be to develop partnerships with other key associations such as the Indian Pulses and Grain Association, Pulse Growers. The network is also foreseen to act as an easy entry point for traders and investors interested in the pulses sector.
  • What successful policies do we know about?

United Republic of Tanzania is the result of the union between the Republic of Tanganyika and the People’s Republic of Zanzibar, every part has its own policies on area agricultural, food security and nutrition, for that reason, there are  many designed  policies in a country, which  when in counted  by poor coordination and multi-sector strategies and interventions,  confusing  implementation process.

The development policies policy framework which are related to agricultural priorities are;-

  1. The Tanzania Development Vision (TDV) 2025
  2. National Strategy for Growth and Reduction (MKUKUTA & MKUZA 1&2)
  3. Five Year Development Plan 2016-2020
  4. Zanzibar Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty (ZSGRP)
  6. Sector Plan
  • The Agriculture Sector Development Strategy (ASDS) contribute to medium-term and long term objectives as outlined in Vision 2025.
  • Private Investment Framework; Agriculture Sector Development Strategy Kilimo Kwanza (Transforming Agriculture) 2009 National Irrigation Development Plan TAFSIP National Agriculture Policy


  • District Agriculture Sector Investment Project (DASIP)
  • Agriculture Market System Development Program (AMSDP)
  • Rural Financial Service Programme (RFSP)
  • Marine and Costal Environment Management Project (MACEMP)
  • Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP)
  • Tanzania Agriculture Food Security Investment Plan TAFSIP 2011/12-2020/21

Nutrition policies and strategies

  • National Multisectoral Nutrition Action Plan (2016-21)
  • National Food and Nutrition Policy
  • Zanzibar Food Security and Nutrition policy
  • The Zanzibar Food Security and Nutrition Situational Analysis (ZFSNSA)
  • Zanzibar Agricultural Transformation for Sustainable Development (2010-2020)
  • Tanzania’s National Food Fortification Programme.