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Pulses: The Heartbeat of Sustainable Agriculture
GHI Celebrates Global Pulse Day 2017
By: Ann Steensland, Deputy Director, GHI
Sustainable agriculture must satisfy human needs; enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base; sustain the economic viability of agriculture and enhance the quality of life for agricultural producers and society as a whole. Pathways to sustainable agriculture and food systems must also take into consideration the complex interactions between the health and productivity of humans, animals and the environment and identify strategies that promote the health of the whole.
Global Pulse Day is spotlighting the important role of pulses – dried, edible seeds of legume plants that can be used as food, fodder and seed – in agriculture and food systems. Pulses contribute to healthy people, healthy animals and a healthy planet, making them the heartbeat of sustainable agriculture.
- Pulses for Healthy People: Pulses are an accessible and affordable source of plant-based protein and micronutrients, including folate, iron, calcium, B-vitamins and antioxidants. Pulses score low on the glycemic index and increase satiety, making them ideal for people struggling with diabetes and weight management.
- Pulses for Healthy Animals: Pulses can be grown specifically for animal fodder and the crop residue of pulses grown for human consumption also provides nutritious food for animals.
- Pulses for a Healthy Planet: Pulses are an important part of a sustainable cropping system. They fix nitrogen in the soil, reducing the need for water and improving soil health. Many pulse species are drought-tolerant, making them an ideal crop for dryland regions.
The global pulse value chain is complex, encompassing millions of small-scale farmers who produce for personal consumption and local markets, as well as large-scale commercial farmers producing for export markets and food companies. The 2016 Global Agricultural Productivity Report® (GAP Report®) describes how GHI’s five key policy priorities create an enabling environment for increasing the productivity and sustainability of the pulse value chain:
- Invest in Public Agricultural Research Development and Extension
- Embrace, Customize and Disseminate Science-Based and Information Technologies
- Enhance Private Sector Involvement in Agriculture and Infrastructure Development
- Cultivate Partnerships for Sustainable Agriculture and Improved Nutrition
- Foster Capacity for Regional and Global Agricultural Trade
This infographic from the 2016 GAP Report® shows how these policies and investments can improve the lives, livelihoods and nutrition of pulse producers and consumers around the world.
 Based on definition of sustainable agriculture found in Toward Sustainable Agriculture Systems in the 21st Century, National Research Council (2010).