Pulse crops play significant roles both in human diets and agriculture, and contribute to sustainable farming. However, their full potential was less understood and highlighted until recently. To promote the unique quality of pulses the year 2016 was declared as the International Year of Pulses (IYP) by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly. IYP 2016 was meant to create opportunities and encourage all stakeholders, including national governments to work towards improving pulses’ production and consumption.

Over a hundred events were organized globally by international governments, the UN and scientists to celebrate the IYP. The official launch of the International Year of Pulses took place on 10 November 2015 at the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) headquartered in Rome.

The CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes (Grain Legumes) played a significant advocacy role in accelerating transformative research on pulse crops that would allow them to deliver on their full potential as a critical player in the global food system. Grain Legumes supported an array of activities all through 2016 to strengthen research on pulses.

pulses-stratergyA 10-year Research Strategy on Pulses was prepared as part of the IYP efforts during 2016 in a global consultation that included four different rounds of consultation with scientific experts.  The report highlights this internationally coordinated effort designed to increase investment in strategic pulse research. The report will be used to set an agenda for global discussions and mobilize champions to step up investments in pulse research. The strategy was led by the Grain Legumes Director, Dr Shoba Sivasankar, together with five leading researchers in the field, coordinated by Dr Christine Negra for Emerging Ag, Inc. and the Global Pulse Confederation, and supported by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Canada. It was discussed at the IYP Global Dialogues organized by FAO in Rome on 22-23 November, and presented at the Global Pulse Day celebration at the UN headquarters in New York City on 18 January 2017.

Grain Legumes along with the ICRISAT Development Center organized a thematic event on Pulses Self-sufficiency in India: Challenges, Opportunities & Strategies on 6 October 2016. The meeting discussed the key strategies to be adopted to make India self-sufficient in pulses. The meeting attendees included the key stakeholders and partners concerned with pulses production in India and across the globe.

Dr Shoba at the Welcome Ceremony-Marrakesh Conference

Dr Shoba Sivasankar (second from right) along with other esteemed dignitaries, at the Opening Ceremony of the International Conference on Pulses for Health, Nutrition and Sustainable Agriculture in Drylands.

In April 2016, the International Conference on Pulses for Health, Nutrition and Sustainable Agriculture in Drylands was organized in Marrakesh, Morocco. A key output of the conference was the Morocco Declaration which among other recommendations, proposes a 20% increase in global pulses production by 2030 through closing yield gaps, expansion into new niches that include intensification of rice fallows with pulses, and short- season windows in existing intensive cropping systems. It also reaffirmed the need for partnerships amongst countries in scientific and technical arenas.

Dr Sivasankar and other dignitaries presented the Welcome Address at the Opening Ceremony. The conference saw 350 participants from 35 countries, alongside policy-makers, agriculture research organizations, scientists, farmers, the private sector and donors. The conference was organized with the support of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries of the Kingdom of Morocco by the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) in collaboration with the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA–Morocco), OCP Foundation–Morocco, IFAD, Grain Legumes and the FAO.

The Pan African Grain Legume and World Cowpea Conference was the first signature event of the IYP 2016. The conference was organized by International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)Feed-the-Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Grain Legumes, and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) at Livingstone, Zambia from 28 February to 4 March 2016. Speaking at the conference, Director, Grain Legumes underlined the crucial role and potential that investments in pulses research play in achieving significant agricultural impact. She added that the high nutritional value and climate resilience traits of pulses are well placed to fight the global challenge of hidden hunger, poverty and environmental degradation, especially for the vulnerable populations of sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.

At this conference, Grain Legumes also organized a plenary session on Transformational Gender Approaches in Legumes Research and Development: Cases of Excellence. The session addressed issues on best practices in integrating gender analysis in more technical research areas such as breeding.

Riding on the momentum of the International Year of Pulses 2016, January 18 of every year will be celebrated as Global Pulse Day, to continue the efforts made in promoting and raising awareness about the multiple benefits of consuming pulses. On this Global Pulse Day 2017, Grain Legumes through ICRISAT Cafeteria served about 1000 pulse-based meals.