At a regional coordination meeting for ICARDA’s South Asia and China Regional Program in Delhi, Radha Mohan Singh, India’s Minister of Agriculture, stressed the importance of the ICARDA-India partnership and its critical investments in pulse production and climate-resilient agriculture. “Partnership is key to enhancing food and nutritional security,” he said.
Pulses are versatile crops that are a crucial stable in South Asia. Lentil, for example, is the single most important pulse crop in India, Bangladesh and Nepal. Known as the “poor man’s meat” because of its high protein concentrations and high levels of vitamins and macro- and micro-nutrients, lentil is the staple diet of the region’s poor.
Yet, all three countries run a deficit in providing them for their populations.
Grasspea, a nutritious pulse, has not been widely cultivated because they have high levels of toxicity – if consumed for long periods it could cause brain damage and paralysis.
In India, ICARDA has been working with the National Agricultural Research and Extension System, or NARES, to address these problems. Together, they have increased lentil production, using fallow rice fields. They have also released new, less toxic varieties of grasspea.
Additionally, several varieties released from ICARDA’s genebanks in the past are particularly rich in iron and zinc. This is important because insufficient nutrition and iron deficiencies can lead to anemia. In children, it can cause stunting and growth impairment. Globally, “hidden hunger” affects two billion people.
“We will continue to work together towards climate change resilient research, mechanization in pulses cultivation and processing, improving seed replacement rate to fill the gap of technology adoption in the farmers’ fields,” said India’s Minister of Agriculture Radha Mohan Singh, speaking at the regional coordination meeting.
ICARDA and NARES have joint research projects planned in several areas, including management of watersheds, diversification and intensification of rice- and wheat-based productions systems, growing second crop in rice fallows, conservation agriculture, and geoinformatics technologies.
“ICARDA and Indian research organizations share the same goals – more productive, sustainable rain-fed farming, and better livelihoods for small-scale farmers and pastoralists,” the minister added.
In Bangladesh, ICARDA worked with Virginia Tech University and Bangladesh Agricultural University to conduct a study examining the introduction, adoption and diffusion of lentils throughout the country. The results showed that improved varieties now cover almost all of the lentil growing area in the country. Since 1991, 15 lentil varieties were released in Bangladesh; eight of them, originating from ICARDA’s cultivars, cover over 98% of the cultivation area.
The adoption of improved lentil varieties has helped Bangladesh achieve higher yields and household incomes, saving an estimated $25.8 million per year.
For the minister’s full speech, click here.