Pulses or food legumes provide an important opportunity to contribute to food and nutrition security in a sustainable way, through intensification and diversification of agricultural systems. Food legumes also play a significant role in the efficient use of soil and water resources, and creating income and employment opportunities for poverty alleviation.
Legume production in India and Morocco has fallen over the past few decades and well below potential. Yields have consistently fallen below demand, leading to increased prices in the region and worldwide (see trends). India remains the leader in the production of pulses, although low yields have resulted in big shortfalls in supply. To keep up, India has to produce at least 20 million tons by 2020. Morocco, on the other hand, launched its Green Morocco Plan (GMP) Strategy in 2008 to upgrade its agricultural sector for the sake of modernization and integration into the world market as to create wealth across the value chain, and support policies needed for sustainable growth. Legumes are a big part of this effort. Morocco aims to boost legumes production in growing regions between 40 to 80% by 2020.
Under India-Morocco Food Legumes Initiative (IMFLI), India and Morocco have joined efforts to boost food legumes production in their respective countries with the broader goal of improving food and nutrition security, soil health, and income growth in their regions. Funded by OCP Foundation, the initiative aims to facilitate dissemination and adoption of improved technologies and governance practices to increase the productivity of food legumes in India and Morocco through participatory knowledge management systems and South-South collaboration.
The south-south initiative is targeting arid and semi-arid areas in India and Morocco where there are vulnerable communities with poor access to markets. As strategic approach, the initiative implements the following activities around food legumes crops for mutual gains:
- On-farm participatory testing and demonstration of improved varieties and crop management practices with target farmers
- Capacity building and networking of all stakeholders through farmer field schools, travelling workshops and training
- Establishing village-level based seed delivery systems
- Value chain analysis and farmers organization for agri-business initiatives
- ICT tools for knowledge dissemination and sharing
- Stakeholders organization for concerted action for sustainability and influencing policy
The south-south collaboration holds vast potential to influence public policy in India and Morocco on food legumes production and trade. Further, the initiative seeks to provide a best-practice model that can be widened to improve food legumes production, enhance nutrition security, and provide stable alternative livelihoods to rural communities across the developing world.
The project is targeting over 10,000 farmers in both India and Morocco with improved seed of farmer-preferred varieties of lentil, chickpea, faba bean and grasspea, which has resulted in increased yields. Farmers have received technical guidance on interventions such as reduced-tillage/zero-tillage, seed rates, seed priming, weed management, and post-harvest handling.
Further, mutual visits of scientists, policy makers, and other stakeholders between the two countries are synergizing dissemination of technologies and knowledge sharing, further strengthening the South-South cooperation and multiplying the benefits in both India and Morocco.