“Our role is to encourage farmers to grow pulses as alternative food crops," Meshark says. "They’re rich in proteins, fibre, and important vitamins and minerals such as iron, zinc, folate, and magnesium. These are especially vital for growing children, expectant women and the elderly.
“Ensuring that the families we work with have enough safe and nutritious food is Ripple Effect's number one impact objective,” he says: “Everything else we do follows from that.”
Ripple Effect tracks project progress by a household dietary diversity score (HDDS), which measures the percentage of people eating six or more food types a day. In many communities where we start working there are very low HDDS because of the lack of protein, and that directs our project planning, including promoting pulses.
In 2023, 115,000ha of the land managed by farmers Ripple Effect is working with was put into pulse production. The result that year was a harvest of 2.3m tons of pulses, half of which was consumed by the farming families themselves.
Legumes (the crops that produce the edible seeds which are pulses) are vital allies in a climate crisis. Pigeon peas, chickpeas, yellow beans and cowpeas are among the common species grown in the tropics for their climate resilience.
In Kenya, for example, farmers growing maize will now usually intercrop with beans and cowpeas. Beans are faster-maturing than maize and they can expect a crop in as little as three months, before a drought sets in. And cowpeas do well even with inadequate rain.
All of the 46,000 households we are currently working with in Kenya now have at least half of their farmland intercropped with pulses.