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The FAO has declared 2016 as the International Year of Pulses to raise awareness on the benefits of pulses and boost global production

beans shanlung flickrVarious types of beans are widely grown across the world. (Image source: Shanlung/Flickr)

Pulses are part of traditional diets, especially in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and are grown by small-scale farmers. “They have been an essential part of the human diet for centuries. Yet, their nutritional value is not generally recognized and is frequently under-appreciated,” said FAO director-general José Graziano da Silva.

Popular pulses include dried bean varieties (kidney beans, lima beans, butter beans and broad beans) and pea varieties such as chickpeas, cowpeas, black-eyed peas, pigeon peas, among others. Their protein content is double that of wheat and rice, and are also rich in micronutrients, amino-acids and Vitamin-B.

In addition to being high on nutrition, pulses are a cost-friendly alternative to animal-based protein, said the FAO.

Growing pulses can be beneficial to farmers, especially in economically backward areas, as they yield higher prices than cereals.

“Despite strong evidence of the health and nutritional benefits of pulses, their consumption of pulses remains low in many developing and developed countries. The International Year can help overcome this lack of knowledge,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The UN chief also called for collaborative commitment and concrete action by all relevant actors within the UN system, farmers’ organisations, civil society and the private sector, to make the International Year of Pulses 2016 a success.