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Growing chickpea to cope with climate change

By Vision Reporter

Added 15th November 2011 08:38 PM

FARMERS in Mbarara and Isingiro districts in western Uganda have started growing chickpea to help them cope with climate change and fight malnutrition.

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FARMERS in Mbarara and Isingiro districts in western Uganda have started growing chickpea to help them cope with climate change and fight malnutrition.

By Hassan Matovu
 
FARMERS  in Mbarara and Isingiro districts in western Uganda have started growing chickpea to help them cope with climate change and fight malnutrition. 
 
Chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.), commonly referred to as the “Indian” crop, is an ancient leguminous plant. It is the third most important food legume globally after dry beans and dry peas, grown in the world on 11 million hectares with estimated production of nine million tonnes per year.
 
India alone accounts for nearly two-thirds of the world’s production (5.65 million metric tonnes) and imports an additional 0.23 million metric tonnes. 
 
The crop is one of half-dozen legumes that have been promoted through a well-organised extension effort in Bangladesh. 
In East Africa, land acreage for chickpea production was estimated to be 0.34 million hectares, in 2006. 
 
Chickpea has several desirable agronomic characteristics as well as minimal competition for available labour. Among temperate pulses, it is the most heat and drought-resistant crop and is suitable for production in low moisture and fertility soils. The crop grows well under cool, dry and bright weather. 
 
There are two types of chickpea: Kabuli, which is characterised by white flowers, large white grains and green stems. There is the Desi type, characterised by purple flowers, purple stems and small brown grain. 
 
Research has shown that Kabuli tastes better than Desi, yet Desi seems to be more drought-resistant than Kabuli. Both types can be boiled and eaten with banana, sweet potato or millet bread the way beans are utilised in homesteads.
 
Chickpea seeds can also be roasted, ground and mixed with your plate of already prepared vegetable or can be milled into flour and mixed with any other desirable flour to form a composite or be used to bake products like crisps, cakes, cookies, bread and baggia.
 
Nutritional value
Chickpea is widely recognised for its contribution to human diets. Studies have confirmed that chickpea is an excellent (17-28%) protein source and it is truly the “meat for the poor”, which may improve the nutritional value of cereal-based diets.
 
Besides being rich in proteins, the Indian crop, also known as Dengu, provides sufficient amounts of calcium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, zinc and magnesium for humans. It also provides high quality crop residues for animals.
 
When combined with whole grains such as rice, maize and millet, chickpea provides virtually fat-free high quality protein. It is a good source of cholesterol-lowering fiber, as are most other beans, with a low glycemic index, preventing blood sugar levels from rising too rapidly after a meal. 
 
This makes it an especially good choice for people suffering from diabetes, insulin resistance or hypoglycemia. 
In Uganda, chickpea seed is selling like a “hot cake” and there is increasing demand for the product, especially by the Indian community, agro processing and bakery industries. 
 
Some chickpea value-added products have already been developed by Ugandan scientists and are on sale at the faculty of Food Science and Technology-Makerere University.

Growing chickpea to cope with climate change

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