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Experts suggest legumes cultivation to boost food security in Africa

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Cultivation of improved varieties of legumes that include beans, green grams and peas is key to boost food security and rural incomes in Africa, experts said on Thursday.

The experts, who spoke on the sidelines of the ongoing Africa Green Revolution Forum in Nairobi, said policy attention, training and funding were key to encourage African smallholders to scale up cultivation of legumes.

Kenya’s Minister for Industry, Trade and Cooperatives, Adan Mohamed, noted that large-scale cultivation of legumes will offer durable solution to hunger, malnutrition and poverty that blight African smallholders.

"We need to encourage investments in legumes farming and reform their value chains to ensure farmers generate sustainable income from these staple crops," Mohamed remarked.

Cultivation of legumes, commonly known as pulses in Sub-Saharan Africa, has been constrained by inadequate access to certified seeds, diseases and pests as well as market volatility.

The minister stressed that investment in improved varieties, value addition alongside better agronomic practices will enhance production of legumes in Africa.

"Legumes serve as a fallback whenever African countries experience a shrinking yield in maize and other key staples. They provide nutrition security to low income groups and are a major source of export earnings," Mohamed said.

Kenya has developed a roadmap to promote cultivation of legumes in the face of declining yield occasioned by climatic stresses, shrinking arable land and high cost of seeds.

The minister said Kenya intends to become a hub for production and trade in pulses like beans, green grams and cow peas.

Dr. Robin Buruchara, Director with Pan African Bean Research Alliance at the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), noted that legumes can be used for fortification to address child malnutrition and stunting.

"Currently, legumes are the most traded agricultural commodities in this region.

"They provide stable incomes to rural women and are a rich source of iron and zinc," said Buruchara.

He added the nitrogen fixing function played by legumes is key to boost soil health in Africa.



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