South African farmers have been urged to cultivate pulses, as the leguminous plant has proven to be drought-resistant, as well as beneficial in managing chronic diseases such as diabetes and cancer.
Pulses include plants such as dry beans, dry broad beans, dry peas, chickpeas, cow peas, pigeon peas, lentils, Bambara beans, vetches, lupins and pulses nes.
With the current drought conditions in South Africa, there has been a growing demand for the plant. Although the production of pulses in the country was low, the department of science and technology (DST) felt the plant could help address hunger and food insecurity, as it was resistant to harsh weather conditions.
Pulses came under the spotlight in Johannesburg on Thursday at a conference marking the International Year of Pulses (IYP 2016). According to the DST, pulses are leguminous plants that have nitrogen-fixing properties that can contribute to increasing soil fertility and thereafter, have a positive impact on the environment.
Health organisations around the world recommend eating pulses as part of a healthy diet to address obesity and manage chronic diseases such as diabetes and cancer.
According to a statement from DST, food experts and scientists believe there is a growing market interest that small-scale farmers can tap into. But more investment in research into the production of pulses was needed to respond to an increase in market demand for the products.
According to executive director of the National Science and Technology Forum Jansie Niehaus, more than 14 million citizens in the country face food challenges. “Food prices increased by 9.8% in March this year and this has negatively impacted on the poor,” said Niehaus.
“Public awareness about pulses is important, and South Africa needs to start integrating the consumption of pulses into their daily lives. Local communities possess a wealth of knowledge of
indigenous edible plants that can survive adverse weather conditions and are an excellent source of nutrition,” added Niehaus.
Researcher at the Agricultural Research Council Wikus Snijman said the production of pulses in the country was very low in spite of its huge market potential. “More needs to be done to realise that pulses have the potential to contribute to food and nutrition security. We need to really boost production,” said Snijman.
Snijman further called on government to support small farmers with the necessary resources. “Our government should invest more money to support small farmers if we are to become a competitive producer of pulses,” said Snijman.
The aim of celebrating IYP 2016 in South Africa was to raise public awareness about the important role pulses could play in addressing hunger and food insecurity, as well as to encourage the growing of pulses by the general public, the DST said.
– African News Agency (ANA)