By Ozzie Abaye, Professor, School of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Virginia Tech, and Ann Steensland, Lead, Global Agricultural Productivity Initiative, Virginia Tech
Since 2019, Virginia Tech, in collaboration with Counterpart International, has been investigating the potential of mung bean to address malnutrition and food security in Senegal. The project seeks to create acceptance and increase consumption in communities to address malnutrition and food insecurity.
Mung bean is a variety of pulse, the dried, edible seeds of legume plants and can be used as food, fodder, and seed. There are 11 types of pulses, each having many varieties. Dried beans, chickpeas and lentils are the most common types of pulses.
Pulses provide benefits for people, animals and the planet.
Pulses for Healthy People: Pulses are an accessible and affordable source of protein and micronutrients, including folate, iron, calcium, B-vitamins, and antioxidants. Pulses score low on the glycemic index and increase satiety, making them ideal for people struggling with diabetes and weight management.
Pulses for Healthy Animals: Pulses can be grown specifically for animal fodder and the crop residue of pulses grown for human consumption also provides nutritious food for livestock.
Pulses for a Healthy Planet: Pulses are an important part of a sustainable cropping system. They fix nitrogen to the soil and improve soil health. Many pulse varieties are drought-tolerant, making them an ideal crop for dryland regions.
In the Senegalese communities where Virginia Tech is working, mung bean is a new crop so the project is focusing on acceptance by farmers to grow the crop and consumers to eat it.
The primary objective of the project is to use mung bean to provide nutrient rich school meals to elementary school students. So far, the program has trained more than 1,000 farmers and fed 2,000 students.
The introduction of mung bean to Senegal could help sustain agricultural production through diversification of agricultural systems. It also represents an opportunity to produce nutrient-rich foods in an area that faces serious food insecurity issues.
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