Promoting Chickpea as an Alternative High-Value Crop
The farmers in North Luzon are now learning the latest technology on chickpea production through the P9-million Philippine Chickpea Project of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCARRD), Benguet State University (BSU), and the Department of Agriculture-Cordillera Administrative Region (DA-CAR).
According to Dr. Myer Mula of DACAR and Dr. Fernando R. Gonzales of BSU, the proponents of the project, the project aims to promote the cultivation of chickpea, or garbanzos, as an alternative commercial crop over the next three years because it will have a significant niche in the food economy of the households, especially in the Cordillera where the daytime temperature of 70°F – 80°F and the night time temperature of nearly 65°F is suitable for the production of edible legumes like chickpea. In doing so, its commercial production would stabilize and sustain the livelihood productivity of CAR.
Along with the latest technology, the project is also promoting in Benguet and Mt. Province, the initial project sites, the cultivation of the two chickpea varieties developed by ICRISAT. These are the desi, which is traditionally grown in the warm countries in South Asia and East Africa, and kabuli, a large-seeded type that is grown in the temperate regions of West Africa which is starting to be in demand in the global market.
As part of the project, ICRISAT provides seeds of improved breeding lines and cultivars, technical assistance, and training. PCARRD, on one hand, also provides technical assistance and research funds, assists in capacity building, and regularly monitors the progress of the project, while the DA-CAR and BSU supervise the implementation and promote the technology adopted by the project.
Presently, the Philippines still imports chickpea, which contains 23 percent protein, 47 percent starch, 5 percent fat, 6 percent crude fiber, 6 percent soluble sugar, and 3 percent ash, from India, Pakistan, Australia, and Canada.
In related developments, former DA secretary and now ICRISAT head Dr. William D. Dar said during the launching of the Philippine Chickpea Project that ICRISAT and its sister organization, the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas are developing pest-resistant chickpea varieties and other cultivars that marginalized farmers could grow under certain conditions.
He also said that ICRISAT and the National Agricultural Research Systems in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa have improved wild chickpea species and are making these available in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa where millions of smallholder farmers are making money from chickpea, their main source of dietary protein.