Oats – they are a grain that evokes comfort, home, and a hearty healthiness. Whether oatmeal cookies, oatmeal, or an amazing addition to savoury dishes, there is something about oats that evokes fond memories for me. Plus it is a reminder of Canada’s productive farming capacity. Canada produces the most oats and is responsible for half the world’s exports of oats.I’ve just wrapped up a visit to Ottawa with the Prairie Oat Growers Association, where visits to all three political parties provided an opportunity to share the story of oats. Over the past two decades, oat farming has become increasingly productive. Canadian oats have high levels of beta-glucan that make them heart-healthy and excellent quality in terms of weight and colour. These competitive advantages cannot be taken for granted.Oat milling in Canada has declined in favour of American processing. With that has come the need to export, so when grain transportation arose two years ago and oats were not able to move, the impact was grave. Millers couldn’t get what they needed without exports from other countries as far away as Sweden. American millers have encouraged a return to American production resulting in market losses to Canadians.This situation reminds us all of some fundamental needs. It is essential to ensure the reliability of oat exports – already the industry has implemented 100 car unit trains, increased trucking, and railway fleet options. The ongoing regulatory environment must monitor and sustain solutions in all corridors. Movement South to the US and Mexico needs just as much attention as movement to port position.There is also a need to support domestic consumption and processing. After years of reductions, it is time to think about our domestic capacity for processing and the ways to excite Canadians production of oats.This requires innovation. Part of that innovation is to help consumers think of oats as more than just a breakfast food. Oats make a great addition to all meals and are a wonderful snack food. Use of oats as an ingredient needs more exploration, including traits like beta-glucan to make other foods more heart-healthy.Oats also need new markets – domestic and foreign – plus better ways to serve the American processors like Cheerios and Quaker Oats that have been such great supporters of Canadian oats. They need high beta-glucan levels, strong evidence on the natural sustainability claims of a low-water use crop like oats.Innovation is the pathway to lift the Canadian oat market and we hope more leaders are seeing the role for this vital crop.
Small enterprises support food production and agriculture around the world, so it is a great opportunity to apply for SEED awards this year that recognise entrepreneurship in developing countries with a strong interest in sustainable development. SEED highlights the deadline for applications below:
Start-up enterprises that solve pressing local issues by integrating social and environmental benefits into their business models can apply for the 2016 SEED Awards, whose closure is nearing – interested applicants have only one week left!
This year SEED will make available up to:15 SAG-SEED Awards to enterprises in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, South Africa and Uganda supported by the SWITCH-Africa Green (SAG) project, which is implemented by UNEP with the assistance of the European Union;4 SEED Africa Awards to enterprises in Malawi, Mozambique and Namibia supported by the Government of Flanders;1 SEED Gender Equality Award to enterprises in Kenya that are run or owned by women and prioritise women‘s empowerment.Candidates can apply until 21 March 2016, 23:59 CET.
This article originally appeared on Huffington Post. Normally, Livingstone is home to 150,000 Zambians and international tourists seeking out the unique beauty of the Victoria Falls.This week, Livingstone has also been host to the Pan African Grain Legume and World Cowpea Conference, the first conference dedicated to boosting pulse productivity, nutrition and processing in Africa. It could be a potential milestone in the fight against global hunger.The four hundred academics, NGOs and scientists are here to do something really important: turn around the lack of investment in agricultural research and development, which is handicapping the ability of poor, small holder African farmers to fight climate change, boost productivity and feed their families.It's not that money isn't invested into agricultural productivity. It is. But many crops don't' attract their 'fair share' of investment. For example, pulses. The shame is these crops, often known as 'orphan crops' because they get ignored by funders, are potentially vital in the fight to deliver the UN's Sustainable development Goals (SDGs) because of their nutrition-density, affordability and positive impact on soil, which is why the UN FAO has declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses.This lack of investment was underlined prior to the Pan African Grain Legume and World Cowpea Conference, when a new global survey, showed agricultural researchers are concerned the current level of research funding into pulses is so low it may be handicapping efforts to improve food security and agricultural sustainability.Called the 'Global Pulse Productivity & Sustainability Survey', the survey suggests annual investment in pulses hovers at $175m, whereas billions are invested into other crops such as corn.There are some major contributors to global funding for pulse crop productivity and sustainability research such as CGIAR, USAID and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Most countries in North America and Europe maintain an international funding agency. Others have national funding programs. But is it enough?"No. Bottom line: we need a 10-fold increase in pulse research funding," according to Huseyin Arslan, President of the Global Pulse Confederation, which commissioned the survey. "With over 800 million people suffering from acute or chronic undernourishment, increasing pulse research is vital. We can only meet the world's protein needs with better varieties of chickpeas, peas, beans, and lentils."Which brings us back to Livingstone.#Legumes4Africa is the theme for the Pan African Grain Legume and Cowpea Conference. It's focused on grain legumes because of their potential to play a significant role in delivering against the UN's new SDGs - especially Zero Hunger, Good Health & Wellbeing and Life on land. Or, as Given Lubinda, Zambian Minister of Agriculture, so eloquently put it: 'The quality of life of a rapidly growing world population will be dependent on pulses.'"Investments in pulses research have the potential for significant agricultural impact. The high nutritional value and climate resilience traits of pulses are well established to fight the global challenge of hidden hunger, poverty and environmental degradation, especially for the vulnerable populations of sub-Saharan Africa and Asia," says Shoba Sivasankar, Director, CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes.India the largest consumer and a major producer of pulses has recently introduced subsidies for pulse production in a move which some see as a pointer for other Governments. Director General of ICARDA Dr. Mahmoud Solh, a leader in international agricultural research said: "India should be commended for being the first country giving subsidies now to pulses also which is expected to change the picture".The Indian Government and others have also recently teamed up to launch a Global Pulse Research platform. "The platform will not only invest in the necessary research for new pulses technologies but also build the capacity of local scientists, extension workers and farmers, " according to Dr. Solh who calls pulses "climate smart crops" because they contribute positively to soil health. "The establishment of the Global Pulses Research Platform is a step in the right direction," Dr. Solh concluded.The Global Pulse Productivity & Sustainability Survey and #Legumes4Africa both highlight a broad consensus among experts about the need and focus for research in a key 'orphan crop'."With investment in crop improvement and agronomy research, pulses can be made resilient to climate change as well as diversify income sources for farmers. Focused research efforts creating expanded value-added marketplace for pulses will generate new market opportunities for farmers to make farmers prosperous as well as modernize our food system to become more sustainable, equitable and nutritious," says David Bergvinson, Director General, International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics.This consensus is a 'Big Step' forward. But much still needs to be done.'Pulse production is about half what it could be and storage problems still remain,' according to Ylva Hilbur, from the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture.''Smallholder farm yields are about 2-3 times lower than they are on research stations so we need to focus on sustainable intensification of cropping systems,' says Jeffrey Ehlers of the Gates Foundation, whose single biggest investment in pulses is the Tropical Legumes III project. His point is backed by many other experts.By bringing together so many key people for the first time, #Legumes4Africa has already achieved much. It could become a significant milestone on a journey to place pulses at the top of the political agenda for food security and nutrition.If Given Lubinda is right, we need it to be.
The Global Pulse Confederation (GPC) and its partners are hosting this year the LovePulses Product Showcase. This global competition aims to encourage the development of innovative food products containing pulses as core ingredients. So far Ethiopia, India and Canada have named their great champion that will represent their countries at the Global Showcase at IFT in Chicago July 16-19, 2016 with the winners of the national and virtual competitions.The participants to this global competition showed a large range of innovative approaches to put Pulses in the spotlight. The winner of Ethiopia’s competition, Mrs. Greiling, showcased six new nutritious and delicious pulse-based products as ‘special menu’ of the day, starting with breakfast, lunch, snack, right up to dinner. Different types of pulses were used, among them faba bean, field pea, chickpea, mung bean, and cowpea.Canada just finished their Mission ImPULSEible competition at The Canadian Institute of Food Science & Technology (CIFST) on February 22 in Vancouver during CIFST’s annual conference under the theme: Pulse Innovation in Traditional Food Products. Six teams from each province competed in Vancouver with Canadian celebrity chef Vikram Vij who served as one of the judges for the Mission : ImPULSEible National Championship.The theme of the Indian competition was to create a snack food or convenience food product (ready to eat, ready to heat) made with pulses that focus on technology, innovation or recipe development. The competition was launched on October 1st, 2015. 2 teams from each of the North, South, East, West and Central zones travelled to Jaipur for the national competition and 34 submissions were received! The national winners competed and were selected at the Pulses Conclave in Jaipur on February 18th. The winning team, students from the Institute of Hotel Management in Bangalore used adzuki beans, red split lentils, black gram and other ingredients to create “Adzuki Coins”, a wonderful new snack.In March, China and the US will hold their National competition, followed by Australia and Japan. All of them will encourage the creation and innovation of food products to help present pulses to the world and build awareness around the IYP2016.