Why 2016 has been declared the International Year of the Pulses


year of the pulses

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The G20 Technical Platform on the Measurement and Reduction of Food Loss and Waste launched early last month. The knowledge sharing platform — a joint effort between the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) — is designed to raise awareness and share best practices for measuring and reducing food waste and loss on a global level.


Why food loss and waste affects all of us

Food loss refers to the decrease in edible food at the production, post-harvest and processing stages of the food chain, mostly in developing countries. Food waste refers to the disuse of edible foods at the retail and consumer levels, mostly in developed countries.

Eliminating food loss and waste is critical to improving food security. According to the FAO, more than one third of the food produced today is lost or wasted, and yet nearly 800 million people are suffering from chronic hunger. In order to feed the world by 2050, it is estimated that global food production must increase by 60%, explains the FAO. How do we reach that goal? By reducing food waste and loss, for starters.


Finger on the pulse

Right, well, saying we are going to reduce food waste and loss is one thing. Actually getting it done is quite another. That's why the 68th United Nations General Assembly has declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses (IYP).

The FAO says that the goal of IYP 2016 is to heighten public awareness of the nutritional benefits of pulses as part of sustainable food production aimed toward food security and nutrition.


So why pulses?

Pulses are annual leguminous crops yielding between one and 12 grains or seeds of variable size, shape and color within a pod, used for both food and feed. The term “pulses” is limited to crops harvested solely for dry grain, thereby excluding crops harvested green for food, which are classified as vegetable crops, as well as those crops used mainly for oil extraction and leguminous crops that are used exclusively for sowing purposes, according to the definition of “pulses and derived products” of the FAO.

Pulse crops such as lentils, beans, peas and chickpeas are a critical part of the general food basket. They are a vital source of plant-based proteins and amino acids for people around the globe and should be eaten as part of a healthy diet to address obesity, as well as to prevent and help manage chronic diseases such as diabetes, coronary conditions and cancer; they are also an important source of plant-based protein for animals.


The food wastage footprint of pulses

Compared to other crops, pulses already have a low food wastage footprint. Pulses are also highly water efficient, especially in comparison to other sources of protein. For instance, one kilogram of cooked beef requires 10 times as much water than 1 kilogram of daal.

Furthermore, pulses require minimal processing and no refrigeration, which limits natural resource consumption in the later stages of the food supply chain. Because they are shelf stable, pulses can be stored for many months and sometimes years without spoiling or losing nutritional value. This can reduce the likelihood of consumer food waste due to spoilage, and makes pulses a smart choice for food insecure households.

How's that for reducing food waste and loss and working toward increasing global food production by 60%, eh?


Some culinary inspiration

You can incorporate pulses into pretty much any meal, including salads, soups, side dishes, entrees and even desserts. To help tempt your taste buds, the FAO has shared a selection of pulses-based recipes, spanning several countries and continents. Click here to check them out.