Hundreds of experts from around the world will gather in Dakar, Senegal from 27 September to 1 October 2010 for the Fifth World Cowpea Research Conference to discuss threats to the survival and farm production of black eyed peas—one of Africa's oldest and most resilient and nutritious crops.
From its humble origins in the drier regions of West Africa, where farmers have grown the black-eyed pea (also known as cowpea) for 5000 years, it was carried to the United States in the bellies of slave ships, and then introduced to the world through international trade. Today, black-eyed peas are a global commodity, grown in nearly every region of the world. Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for about 70 percent of total world production.
In years to come, scientists believe that black-eyed peas could lead the way in Africa’s effort to fight malnutrition among its growing population and confront the effects of climate change. The shifting weather patterns threatening to desiccate farmer’s fields across the continent put a spotlight on crops like the black-eyed pea that are rich in vitamins and protein and do well in hot, dry conditions. Black-eyed peas have the added benefit of releasing nitrogen that revives depleted soils.
“Black-eyed peas have been largely neglected despite their multiple benefits and the fact that developing new, high-yield varieties could boost farm incomes by as much as 50 percent while improving household nutrition.” --Hartmann, director general of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)
“Black-eyed peas have been largely neglected despite their multiple benefits and the fact that developing new, high-yield varieties could boost farm incomes by as much as 50 percent while improving household nutrition,” said Hartmann, director general of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), which is co-hosting the World Cowpea Research Conference with the Government of Senegal, the Dry Grain Pulses Collaborative Research Support Program, and Purdue University. "Today we see scientists racing against time to rescue and conserve cowpea varieties that can help farmers deal with pests and diseases and adapt to changing environments.”
Scientists will meet in Dakar to discuss key constraints to cowpea production, share progress being made in advanced cowpea genomics, and consider the best ways to unlock cowpea’s potential as a hedge against climate change, hunger, and poverty.