When the United Nations (UN) General Assembly designates an issue to be the focus of an international year, this is usually a tacit admission that people around the world tend to take the issue for granted, even though they shouldn’t.
The International Year of Pulses (IYP 2016) – which is being formally launched on 10 November at the headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) in Rome – is no exception. Despite pulses’ nutritional and other virtues, and their enormous potential for helping confront the most daunting dietary and environmental challenges of our time, vital efforts to improve and promote these food grain legumes are often overlooked.
Such has decidedly not been the case, however, at CIAT and several other CGIAR centers. Even though the big three cereals – rice, wheat, and maize – continue to have pride of place in CGIAR’s global crop research, center “mandates” also give precedence to the six most important pulses: common bean, chickpea, cowpea, faba bean, lentil, and pigeonpea. Moreover, in the last 4 years, our longstanding commitment to improve these crops has been reinforced by the CGIAR global research program on grain legumes.
For us, IYP 2016 thus offers a welcome opportunity to celebrate the major impacts that our research has registered so far, and also to call on donors and partners for renewed support. Their commitment is critical for translating the remarkable achievements of recent years into new rounds of improvement in global pulse performance, and in the food and nutritional security of the approximately 300 million people who depend on these crops.
So, be prepared, readers, for a steady stream of CIAT blog posts, publications, images, tweets, and other products over the next year – all singing the praises of the common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris). Every month, we’ll treat you to a unique bean type, bean scientist, bean-growing country, bean recipe, and bean fact.
Common bean is the most important of CGIAR’s six mandate pulses, in terms of global production and area planted, and donors’ investment in research on this crop has yielded especially high returns. According to a 2008 study, bean improvement had an estimated economic value of US$200 million – more than 12 times the cost.