The 3rd Decadal National Conference on Food and Forage Legumes Has Been Launched at EIAR HQ
The third decadal national conference on food and forage legumes in Ethiopia is being held at EIAR headquarters. The four-day conference is aimed at reviewing the performance of legume research and development activities from the past 10 years, and pinpoint focal areas for future interventions in upcoming research and development in food and forage legume crop production at country level. The conference was attended by representatives of local and international institutions.
The conference coincided with the International Year of Pulses that is being celebrated with the theme of “Legumes for Health Food, Feed, Income and Sustainable Agriculture in the Face of Rapidly Changing Climate”.
It was indicated that the conference will also showcase the role of legume research and development in the national agricultural development endeavors, with a particular emphasis on their specific roles and contributions towards developing the agriculture sector by ensuring food and nutrition security, enhancing the livelihood of their users, maintaining a sustainable development ground for farmers.
Ethiopia stands at the forefront of legume producing countries, with a total of 1.7 million ha of land covered with legume crops annually, out of which 15-20 percent is marketed internationally. However, it is perceived that much could and should be done to make this crops contribute to food and nutritional security and to generate additional foreign income for the country.
It was noted that since the past ten years, some 135 varieties of food and forage legumes have been released for production, and the productivity of these crops has also shown an increase of 40-50 percent within this period, with an average increase of 5-7 quintals per hectare. Among the major export crops known to fetch foreign income for the country, legumes stand at the 5th place, fetching an annual 300-400 million USD. Chickpea, faba bean, haricot bean, soybean, mung bean and lentil constitute these these major crops.
However, it was stressed that research and development efforts in the sector should push forward as the country is still importing some of these legumes from abroad and food and nutritional security needs to be achieved at the required level. Research efforts in this regard, therefore, have been focusing on assessment of user, local and global market demands for legume and legume products and identification of the kind of practices that should be followed to meet these demands. Generation of varieties resilient to impacts of climate change has also been one of the focus areas of R&D in this sector.
Beyond ensuring food security, legumes have much more significant role in ensuring nutrition security for Ethiopia as they are known to be rich in nutrient composition. It was explained that since legumes can be produced in various agroecological zones, including highlands and lowlands of the country, it makes them a viable source of nutrition and income for the majority of the farming community.
In connection with the International Year of Pulses 2016, a FAO representative indicated that the Year is aimed at raising awareness on the crucial roles that pulses have in sustainable food production and healthy diets and, above all, for their contribution to sustainable agriculture, food security and nutrition. The representative told that the year also aims at fostering enhanced research on pulses, identifying good practices and knowledge gaps and research needs in agriculture, pest control, nutrition constituents and processing. He said that being part of sustainable production, pulses have an immense contribution towards income security of farmers in Africa, especially for small and marginal farmers, and that they are part of a healthy diet to address problems of malnutrition and related diseases. he explained.
Despite the strong evidence on the health and nutritional benefits of pulses, their consumption remains low in many developing and developed countries. The representative hence pledged that the International Year of Pulses could help overcome this lack of knowledge. Recalling that pulses are an important component of crop production in Ethiopia providing an economic advantage for, especially, smallholder farmers, as main source of protein, cash income, and food security, among others, the representative assured participants of FAOs willingness to keep up with its provision of supports for projects on food security and research.
During the four-day conference, a panel discussion on the economic and ecological benefits of legumes in Ethiopia, utilization of pulses for food and nutrition security, trends in the performance of Ethiopian food legumes in local export markets, etc. will be held and papers on various aspects food and forage legume research and development will be presented.