Pulses “at the core of sustainability” says FAO while spotlight falls on agri-food transformation
10 Feb 2023 --- The United Nations commemorates World Pulses Day, which was established by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) to recognize the potential of pulses to help achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The annual day comes amid a greater focus on food sources, better nutrition and the planet’s health.
World Pulses Day marks a unique opportunity to raise public awareness about pulses as an ingredient and their fundamental role in the transition to more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable agri-food systems.
This year’s theme, “Pulses for a Sustainable Future,” highlights how pulses – the edible seeds of leguminous plants such as beans, lentils, peas and chickpeas – are increasing the resilience of farming systems and improving lives thanks to their low water footprint, drought tolerance and resistance to climate related-disasters.
It also puts a spotlight on the global pulses sector and how it can be a positive driver in ensuring the resilience of regional and global supply chains, enabling consumers to access nutritious foods and contributing to the sustainable use of natural resources in the production of pulses.
“Pulses contribute in diverse ways toward the transformation of our agri-food systems and can help us address multiple global crises,” says the FAO Director-General, QU Dongyu.
“Pulses can contribute to increasing the resilience of farming systems,” he explains and “help to improve soil biodiversity and are crucial components of multiple cropping systems.”
Spotlight on food security
As the world faces significant food and nutrition security challenges, such as transboundary pests and diseases, conflicts, and the effects of climate change, pulses can be an essential part of the response, as they are an affordable, nutrient-dense food that can be stored for a long time.
As pulses support all dimensions of sustainability, including them in agri-food systems is key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The FAO facilitates and promotes the observance of this international day and supports the production and consumption of pulses as part of sustainable agri-food systems and healthy diets.
While 2023 has been designated the International Year of Millets, the FAO has highlighted many synergies between pulses and millets.
The food organization states that pulses and millets contribute to food security and diversified, nutritious, healthy diets. They have adapted to adverse climatic conditions, allowing them to grow on poor and marginal soils.
Combining millets and pulses through intercropping or crop rotation can boost sustainability and increase production and agrobiodiversity.
A sustainable food source
In addition to their health benefits and multiple applications in cooking, pulses and legumes are also very useful for sustainable agricultural practices.
ProVeg International says, “It’s no wonder three of the four crops used in the EU-funded Smart Protein project are pulses.”
The Smart Protein project aims to explore the crop suitability and processing quality of fava beans, lentils and chickpeas (in addition to quinoa, which is a pseudo-grain) in seven representative pedo-climatic zones in Europe (Denmark, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, and Spain), using organic regenerative farming systems.
Legumes are good candidates for regenerative organic agriculture as they produce several different compounds that feed soil microbes and benefit soil health, ProVeg highlights.
Additionally, after pulse crops are harvested, they leave behind nitrogen-rich crop residues that provide extra nutrients for the next crop that is grown. With their nitrogen-fixing properties, they require less fertilizer, thereby helping to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Slow Food Cooks’ Alliance
This year, Slow Food is involving its international network of cooks, the Slow Food Cooks’ Alliance, calling on them to add more pulses and legumes to their menus. This will raise awareness and reduce their impact one plate at a time while exemplifying Slow Food’s “eat biodiversity to save it” philosophy.
But Slow Food’s legume-promoting initiatives are not restricted to Italy. In Germany, the local Slow Food Saarland group is running its Legume Weeks (February 26 to March 12) for the eighth time, working with restaurateurs and canteens to present beans, lentils, peas and the like in all their diversity while giving diners an exciting taste experience.
Today’s global food system fails to ensure food security and health,” says Slow Food board member Richard McCarthy.
“Pulses are one of our major allies in the fight for healthier, more sustainable and affordable diets for all.”
By Elizabeth Green
This feature is provided by NutritionInsight’s sister website, FoodIngredientsFirst.
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