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7th International Food Legumes Research Conference


The world’s leading legume expertise will gather to take stock of research and development. Photo: Courtesy of Shiv Agrawal.

When the 7th International Food Legumes Research Conference hosted by ICARDA kicks off on Sunday May 6 in Morocco, it will gather the world’s leading expertise in food legumes and big data. Along with the more than 300 scientists and big data experts, the conference will be joined by policy makers, traders and entrepreneurs. Key research and development achievements will be on the agenda as well as discussions on the needs for future research and ways to disseminate knowledge.

On the agenda in Marrakesh

From discussion on the overall trends in research and development in the field of food legumes, this year’s conference will also focus on specific areas of interest. Sessions will be held looking into themes related to specific crops – among them chickpea, lentil, faba bean, pea, mungbean & urdbean, cowpea, common bean and pigeon pea – and will host discussions on ways to promote food legumes to small holder farmers as a new way to allow them to double their income.

“Food legumes have low carbon and water footprints and provide high-quality food, feed, fodder, and raw materials for industries. And they are highly nutritious with protein, fiber, micronutrients, and vitamins,” said Aly Abousabaa, director general of ICARDA. “My hope is that we’ll be able to come together to maximize the economic, environmental, and nutritional benefits of food legume crops for smallholder farmers.”

The present-day agriculture is expected to produce more than just food. It must deliver a range of environmental services, along with high quality affordable food. Food legumes fit in the roadmap to achieve the above agriculture scenario with these protein-rich smart food crops that improve soil fertility and enhance agricultural diversity.

Collaboration for more than 40 years

Four members of the CGIAR agricultural research network – ICARDA, ICRISAT, CIAT and IITA –have been working together since 1977 to improve food legumes. The overall aim is to increase food legumes productivity and consumption as a means to enhance food and nutritional security, while fighting poverty and environmental degradation.

Focusing on dryland areas where climatic conditions and impacts of climate change effects are challenging livelihoods and deepening poverty, the four CGIAR centers work closely with national agricultural research systems of South Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, West Asia and North Africa, and with advanced research institutes globally.

The IFLRC conferences 

The International Food Legume Research Conference (IFLRC) was initiated by prominent food legume scientists and professionals in 1986 as a means to reach out to scientists and scientific communities largely associated with food legumes research and development. The purpose of these meetings was to discuss the research needs, disseminate current knowledge and achievements, and identify new scientific approaches and partnerships in food legumes. The past conferences have been successful to promote international collaboration on basic, applied and strategic research on food legumes to meet the current and future challenges associated with this important group of crops. In the past, six IFLRC conferences were organized on topical themes with great success, creating a solid foundation for joint future research efforts and collaboration as part of the outcomes of this 7th conference in Morocco.

“Good partnerships is key to success,” said Peter Carberry, director of Global Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals, a CGIAR research program which launched in February 2018. “Our material has to feed into the national programs, so that they can lead to on-farm trials of new varieties and technology. At ICRISAT, we have been connecting key players to deliver innovations to farmers, scaling up proven technologies. It's about working together to give access to more people.”

Food legumes and climate change adaptation

Food legumes are protein-rich crops that improve soil fertility and enhance agricultural diversity. Naturally, they are the perfect group of crops to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals. Much progress has been made since the last conference IFLRC-VI, held in Canada in 2014. The UN designated 2016 as the International Year of Pulses, highlighting the legumes’ benefits for health, nutrition, livelihoods, and sustainability.

Yet, there are long-term, systemic issues that hinders the productivity of food legumes to help enhance agricultural sustainability and climate change adaptation. Some of the challenges are related to government policies, such as the unavailability of improved varieties and input-linked subsidies. Low investment in research also hinders the expansion of these crops. 

 “The conference provides an opportunity to promote enabling policies and investment in science and technology,” said Mohammed Badraoui, director general of INRA in Morocco. “The researchers and policy makers need to build relationships and find a systematic way to implement research findings.”  

Read our news release on the conference.

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