NWU hosts symposium on pulses

Issued by North West University
Johannesburg, Oct 24, 2017

The School of Agricultural Sciences on the North-West University's (NWU's) campus in Mahikeng, in conjunction with the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and relevant stakeholders, recently hosted a two-day symposium on pulses* as part of the United Nations (UN) 2016 International Year of Pulses (#2016IYP) declaration.

The theme of the symposium was: "Encouraging accelerated pulse usage through awareness and sustainability programmes", and during the event, post-graduate students and academics presented various research papers.

According to Prof Fosu Kutu, head of the subject area crop science, the main aim of the symposium was to increase and accelerate public awareness of the nutritional benefits of pulses as part of sustainable food production to enhance food security and nutrition.

The symposium objectives included, among others, raising awareness about the important role of pulses in sustainable food production and the provision of healthy diets and contributions towards food and nutrition security. Other objectives are promoting the value and utilisation of pulses throughout the food system, their benefits for soil fertility and climate change and for combating malnutrition; and encouraging connections throughout the food chain to further develop the global production of pulses.

According to Dr Sydney Mavengahama, who presented a paper titled: "Setting a research agenda for under-utilised pulses for the subsistence farming sector in the North West Province", there is a concern that not enough research is being done on pulses in South Africa.

* Pulses are part of the legume family, but the term 'pulse' refers only to the dried seed. Dried peas, edible beans, lentils and chickpeas are the most common varieties of pulses. Pulses are very high in protein and fibre, and are low in fat. Like their cousins in the legume family, pulses are nitrogen-fixing crops that improve the environmental sustainability of annual cropping systems.

They are rich in fibre and protein, and have high levels of minerals such as iron, zinc, and phosphorous as well as folate and other B-vitamins. In addition to their nutritional profile and links to improved health, pulses are unique foods in their ability to reduce the environmental footprint of our grocery carts. Put it all together and these sensational seeds are a powerful food ingredient that can be used to deliver the results of healthy people and a healthy planet.