Feeling the pulse of Africa
May 9, 2016 – "The week ended just too soon," said Vongai Chekanai.
Chekanai was referring to the PanAfrican Legume Conference and World Cowpea Conference, February 28-March 4, in Livingstone, Zambia. She was one of ten students who received travel grants via Crop Science Society of America (CSSA). CSSA is celebrating the International Year of Pulses (IYP) to promote pulses — crops of dry beans, peas, and lentils. CSSA's IYP team, led by Mark Brick, thought educating younger researchers by sending them to Zambia would benefit the pulse world.
"We were honored to grant these students the travel awards," said Brick.
CSSA worked in collaboration with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Feed the Future's Knowledge-Driven Agricultural Development (KDAD) project to fund the students' travel to the conference.
"Collaborating with USAID and KDAD was a natural fit. The world will benefit from having more trained scientists knowledgeable about pulses, and the latest in research efforts," Brick said.
Their students' enthusiasm may be spreading. "Soon the whole world will be legume crazy," Chekanai predicted.
The conference was the UN-Food and Agriculture Organization's signature event for Africa. The program focused on the high nutritional value, stable storage, and soil-building qualities of pulses, which are dry beans, peas, and lentils.
The conference boasted over 500 participants from 6 continents and 46 countries. The theme, "Sustainable grain legume systems for food, income, and nutritional security in a rapidly changing climate," struck a chord with the students.
"Attending offered me the ability to meet many scientists who are conducting the research I've been reading about in school. I engaged in conversations that cannot be duplicated in the classroom," Lance Goettsch said. Goettsch presented one of nearly 400 posters at the conference, broadening awareness of his research and building valuable communications skills.
"I was already pumped about grain legumes before I attended the conference," Jamin Smitchger said. "I learned so much about the various grain legumes grown in Africa at the conference."
Goettsch also pointed out the value of collaboration during the conference. "It was a venue for many young scientists, like me, to interact and discuss the way forward for grain legumes. It also helped us create partnerships that will maximize resources more efficiently."
Olaotan Adediran found renewed focus for her research. "The need to carry out demand-driven, not publication-driven, research was emphasized," she said.
CSSA also provided support to the conference with conference logistics, abstract submissions, and program booklet development.
Winners of the competitive CSSA-USAID travel grants were Md Nurul Amin, Washington State University; Brijesh Angira, Texas A&M University; Lance Goettsch, Iowa State University; Jamin Smitchger, Montana State University; Olaotan Abimbola Adediran, Federal University of Technology; Courtney Holdt, North Dakota State University; Matthew Berry, Michigan State University; Vongai Chekanai, University of Zimbabwe; Dennis Ndahura Katuuramu, Michigan State University; Awio Bruno, Makerere University.
Travel grant judges were Mark Brick, Colorado State University; Roch Gaussoin, University of Nebraska-Lincoln; Michael Grusak, USDA-ARS; Juan Osorno, North Dakota State University; Jennifer Long, USAID; Bir B. Singh, G.B. Pant University of Agriculture & Technology; Clarice Coyne, USDA-ARS.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses (IYP). In celebration, the Crop Science Society of America (CSSA) created a web page for the public about pulses, http://www.crops.org/iyp. Special tabs for the public include K-12 Education, Beans in the News, Grown Your Own, and Delicious Ideas.
CSSA has also compiled links to various recipes, so you can increase your consumption of pulses.
CSSA will release more information about pulses during the 2016 IYP celebration.