Aiming to raise awareness of the many benefits of pulses, boost their production and trade, and encourage new and smarter use throughout the food chain, the UN launched the International Year of Pulses 2016.
Pulses are plants which produce legumes such as peas, beans, or lentils and "are important food crops for the food security of large proportions of populations, particularly in Latin America, Africa and Asia, where pulses are part of traditional diets and often grown by small farmers", said UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva at the launch ceremony.
‘Pulses have been an essential part of the human diet for centuries, and are important food crops for the food security of large proportions of populations, yet their nutritional value is not generally recognized and is frequently under-appreciated.’
"They have been an essential part of the human diet for centuries," he said, adding: "Yet, their nutritional value is not generally recognized and is frequently under-appreciated."
He also highlighted how the nitrogen-fixing properties of pulses improve soil fertility, which extends the productivity of farmland and eliminates dependency on synthetic fertilizers. This in turn leads to a smaller carbon footprint and indirectly reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
"Pulses can contribute significantly to addressing hunger, food security, malnutrition, environmental challenges and human health," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a written statement.
In a symbolic gesture following his address, the director general planted a number of fava beans in a planter full of soil as he proclaimed the international year officially begun.