Pulses are the key to environmental sustainability

Pulses are the key to environmental sustainability

2016 is the International Year of the Pulses and this is why…


One of the many reasons that the United Nations declared 2016 as the International Year of the Pulses (IYP) is due to their environmental sustainability – to act for a healthy, hunger-free and sustainable world.

Pulses are the dried seeds of the legume plants. Hundreds of different varieties of pulses are grown around the globe. Pulses play a vital role in sustainability. They are an important component of crop rotation and require less fertilisers than other crops. Pulses have a positive impact on soil quality because they help fix nitrogen in the soil. This contributes to higher yields in subsequent crop rotations. They also have a direct positive impact on soil quality because they help feed soil microbes. Pulses have also been shown to produce greater amounts and different types of amino acids than non-legumes.

Pulses are also a protein source with a low footprint, in both carbon and water. For example, the water footprint to produce a kilo of beef, pork, chicken and soybeans are 43, 18, 11 and 5 times higher than the water footprint of pulses. Pulses have a lower carbon footprint in production than most animal sources of protein. In fact, one study showed that one kilo of legumes only emits 0.5 kg in CO2 equivalent, whereas 1 kg of beef produces 9.5 kg in CO2 equivalent.

Below is a delicious minestrone soup using the pulse beans.

Minestrone Soup

  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 2 celery sticks, chopped
  • 1 stalk fresh rosemary, leaves pulled
  • 6 cups (1.5 L) vegetable stock
  • 400 g canned chopped tomatoes
  • Pinch sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) tomato paste
  • 1 cup (250 ml) water
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 100 g shell pasta
  • 1 cup cooked dried bean mix
  • Parmesan cheese, to serve


  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion, carrot, celery and rosemary.
  2. Stir and cook for 3 minutes or until the vegetables have started to soften.
  3. Add the vegetable stock, tomatoes, sugar, tomato paste and water to the pot.
  4. Stir and season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper and bring to a boil.
  5. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
  6. Add the pasta and beans to the soup and continue to simmer until the pasta is cooked.
  7. To serve, spoon into serving bowls and scatter with parmesan cheese.

The following brands are partners of IYP 2016 in South Africa: Discovery Health, The Heart and Stroke Foundation SA and The National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF)

For recipes, nutrition and health information please visit: www.pulses.org

Joni van der Merwe

About Joni van der Merwe

Your Family’s Digital editor. Avid retweeter. When I’m not scrolling Instagram you’ll find me in my garden. Keen on DIY and I don’t believe there’s anything that can’t be fixed with some chalk paint.


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