Global Science Leaders Call for Better Policies on Pulses

18 April, 2016

2016 International Conference on Pulses for Health, Nutrition and Sustainable Agriculture in Drylands opened today

April 18, 2016, Rabat, Morocco - The 2016 International Conference on Pulses for Health, Nutrition and Sustainable Agriculture in Drylands opened today in Marrakesh, Morocco, including 350 participants coming from 35 countries, alongside policy-makers, agriculture research organizations, scientists, farmers, the private sector and donors. Pulses are highly nutritious food legumes. The goal of the conference is to improve the nutritional situation of almost two billion people in sustainable environments throughout the world, and particularly in developing countries, where 800,000 people do not have access to sufficient food to meet their basic nutritional needs. This population will become even more vulnerable with climate change, droughts and heats, in particular in drylands.

The Conference schedule featured a first-of-its-kind high level discussion about enhancing policy frameworks that would enable targeted pulses research to result in producing more food with less inputs, leading to better soil health.

Speaking on behalf of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations was Michael Hage, the FAO Representative in Morocco. Mr. Hage  believed  that “pulses will play an important role in achieving the Zero Hunger goal by 2030 because of their nutrient-density, affordability and positive impact on soil, and furthermore their potential to climate change mitigation by reducing dependence on synthetic fertilizers that are used to introduce nitrogen artificially into soil.”

Representatives from top agricultural organizations, including the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the International Centre for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas (ICARDA), the Institute National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA - Morocco), the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Global Pulses Confederation (GPC), the OCP Foundation and the CGIAR Grain-Legumes Research Program discussed the importance of pulses for the global food and nutritional security and environmental sustainability.

The conference participants resulted in a jointly stated goal by all participants to work together to “enhance political and financial investment in sustainable intensification of pulse production to meet the growing global demand.”

“For almost forty years IFAD has worked closely with ICARDA to help poor farmers in developing countries improve their production and adapt to a changing environment. With the increasing impact of climate change on developing-world agriculture, I expect our relationship with ICARDA to deepen even further in the years to come,” says Périn Saint Ange, Associate Vice-President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

Pulses, which are high in protein and form the bases of diets of millions would need an enabling policy environment to meet the current and future food and nutritional security challenges as their consumption is estimated to increase by 23% in the next 15 years.

Based on the estimated population in 2020 and 2030, and based on the last 10-year growth trend in global consumption, the demand for pulses for these two years would increase to 75.9 million tons in 2020, and 81.9 million tons in 2030, from the current level of a little over 70 million tons. The conference participants concluded that “through improved policies and investments in pulses research and technology transfer, the rising global gap between the demand and supply of pulses could be bridged.”

The participants also discussed subsistence farming in developing countries versus a market-driven approach in developed countries, as well as climatic conditions and the level of infrastructure development, which have resulted in wide variation in yields across countries. Some of the major factors affecting yield are climate change, soil conditions, varieties and seed availability, investment in mechanization, irrigation, pest management and other farming methods.

Another goal of the conference is to expand pulse research networks and boost their recognition by international donors. Dr Mahmoud Solh, Director General of ICARDA, is clear on the possibilities, “This Conference hopes to reinforce the South-South and South-North dialogue to enhance collaboration in scientific research and development to promote pulses production and consumption in developing countries. In particular young scientists from pulses growing countries will be targeted in this collaboration. Plus, we want to develop an improved image of pulses worldwide as climate resilient, nutrient rich, and environmentally friendly crops.” Solh, calls pulses “climate smart crops”, as they substantially contribute to soil health and water use efficiencies.

The Conference is a part of the UN’s International Year of Pulses (IYP) events coordinated by FAO with the goal of enhancing public awareness of the nutritional benefits of pulses as part of sustainable food production and food and nutrition security. Key topics throughout the week are farming and industry issues, including global pulses market requirements and productivity management of pulses.

Additionally, climate related issues, including soil health, environmental management, and increasing nitrogen fixation, plus global health, nutrition, and gender issues will be strongly represented. Lastly, innovations in pulses genomics, breeding, and biotic and abiotic stress management will be highlighted. Conference attendees will also participate in a field visit to view research experiments on pulse crops at the ICARDA/INRA Marchouch Research Station and on farmers’ fields.

Under the auspices of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries of the Kingdom of Morocco, ICARDA is organizing the International Pulses Conference in collaboration with the Institute National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA - Morocco), OCP Foundation - Morocco, IFAD, the CGIAR Research Program on Grain-Legumes and FAO.
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The event can be followed online using #TalkPulses and at www.icarda.org/pulses  
See the full Conference Program and Biographies  

For more information, please, contact Andrea Gros at a.gros@cgiar.org.