Enhancing pulse production – for people and the environment

ICARDA Board Chair, Dr. Margaret Thalwitz, addresses participants at the opening session of the International Conference on Pulses

ICARDA co-organized an international conference in Morocco, leading a gathering of over 350 participants from 35 countries, to raise the profile of pulses and their multiple benefits. 

The 2016 International Conference on Pulses, held in Marrakesh from April 18 to 20, promoted the environmental, economic and health benefits of pulses. Contributing to the International Year of Pulses, organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, the conference was a global effort to raise public awareness about the role that pulse production can play in sustainable production systems and food and nutrition security. Its international participants included leading researchers, donors, farmers, policy makers and private sector representatives.

Under the auspices of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries of the Kingdom of Morocco, ICARDA organized the Conference in collaboration with the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA-Morocco), OCP Fundation-Morocco, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), FAO, and the CGIAR Research Program on Grains and Legumes.

Strengthening food and nutrition security

The event’s main focus was understanding how pulse production could be improved to deliver nutritional gains to the estimated two billion people in developing countries who do not have access to sufficient food to meet their basic nutritional needs.

Pulses are widely recognized as having significant development potential: they are a good source of protein, fiber and essential nutrients; they are a staple food in many dryland countries, particularly in poor households; require fewer inputs such as water; and can improve soil health by fixing nitrogen. 

A wide range of issues were discussed and participants explored ways of raising production and securing benefits for farmers and poor communities: improving farming systems and access to markets, enhancing policy frameworks to enable targeted pulse research, soil health and increased nitrogen fixation, and environment management. The health benefits of pulses were also raised.  

A new framework to raise pulse production

The Conference concluded with a declaration that provided a framework to capitalize on the growing interest in pulse production and secure its benefits for sustainable food production, health and development.

The ‘Morocco Declaration on Pulses as Solutions to Food and Nutrition Security, Agricultural Sustainability and Climate Change Adaptation’ called for a 20% increase in pulse production by 2030 which could be achieved by closing yield gaps, expanding the land devoted to pulse production, and intensifying rice fallows with pulses; raising the profile of pulses so more people were aware of their benefits; reviewing policies related to pulse production and consumption; and increasing investments in pulse research and development.

“The Conference brought together significant global expertise to discuss the practical ways we can maximize the many benefits of pulse production,” says ICARDA’s Director General, Mr. Aly Abousabaa. “We now have a global agenda that we can carry forward and implement, generating significant benefits for the environment and rural communities.”