Food Security · Uncategorized

Why the African food basket should be full of beans and other pulses

Cowpea, a nutritional food, is mostly consumed by small-holder farmers in South Africa. Shutterstock

The Conversation, 5th July 2016; by  – Postdoctoral research at the Institute for Food, Nutrition and Well-being, University of Pretoria

2016 is the International Year of the Pulse following a UN General Assembly resolution in December 2013. Pulses are an essential part of our diets and a great source of amino acids and protein; these include  dried beans, chickpeas and lentils. 

“The resolution was adopted to reap the benefits that pulses have towards the environment where they increase soil fertility. Nutritionally, they also assist in maintaining a healthy weight, prevent and manage chronic diseases.”

Whereas in Seychelles obesity leading to chronic health issues is a national health concern, the opposite is the case in many sub-Saharan African countries which are plagued by malnutrition and/ or chronic hunger.

“Due to the increasing concerns for the environment, food security, health and nutrition, pulses are one of the best foods to feed the millions of people suffering from chronic hunger, micro-nutrient deficiencies and chronic diseases. A majority of the people suffering live in Africa.”

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Seychelles traditionally grew a variety of dried beans, but now the reliance on imported pulses is the norm, as is the case with many other food items.

“These concerns are set against a background of a continent that has the ability to produce its own rich diversity of nutritious plant foods and crops like pulses that could play a far more significant role in solving malnutrition in Africa. For example, indigenous cereals and pulses such as sorghum and cowpea which grow well where other crops fail such as in the arid and semi-arid areas can be used.”

“Besides being a good source of protein, pulses are good sources of fibre, calcium, iron and vitamins B, E and K. Depending on their genetic makeup, pulses can grow in extreme climatic conditions where other foods are difficult to find. Pulses make up most of the average diet in developing countries due to their low cost.”

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