The world’s consumption of chickpeas has increased significantly in recent years. Garbanzo beans sometimes referred to as chickpeas, are a wholesome and adaptable legume that is frequently used in a variety of international dishes. A variety of reasons have contributed to the increase in chickpea consumption.

Animal based protein is getting more expensive so there is a switch to plant based protein. Chickpeas are an easy option for vegetarians and vegans seeking for alternative protein sources. Additionally, chickpeas are a more sustainable and environmentally friendly substitute for beef protein.

As the demand and production of chickpeas grow worldwide, a wider variety of chickpea products are available on the market. From hummus and falafel to pasta dishes. As the options widen, there will be a higher demand which is great for growers. Chickpeas used to be a stable ingredient in the Middle East and Mediterranean but have expanded to Africa and Europe.

The important proteins found in Chickpeas

Albumin is a water-soluble protein that is found in most plant-based foods. It helps keep fluid from leaking out of your blood vessels into other tissues. Without Albumin you would die a nasty death.

Legumin or vegetable casein is unique to legumes, such as chickpeas and is the main storage protein of leguminous seeds. It contains important amino acids such as glycine, leucine and threonine. Legumins are important for bone maintenance and the regulation of blood sugar levels.

Prolamin is found in the seed’s of chickpeas. The predominant amino acids are proline and glutamine. Only trace amounts of the amino acids arginine, lysine and histidine are in Prolamin. Prolamin is closely related with the chronic gastrointestinal disease called Celiac disease.

Chickpea production in Africa

Since 1961, chickpea production in Africa increased by 5% per year to 500,000ha. Worldwide production stands at 12,000,000ha. Africa has the potential to produce 10,000,000ha becoming the world’s largest producer. The top producers in Africa are Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Niger, South Sudan, Sudan, Togo, Uganda, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe.

Africa needs more plant based high quality protein that anyone can produce, and chickpeas are the answer to this problem. Ethiopia, Morocco and Senegal have developed new varieties that are more suited to the African climate. This has significantly increased their contribution to Chickpea production in Africa.

Chickpeas provide an opportunity for small scale farmers to broaden their income base with an easy to grow crop. It also provides the additional advantage of increasing soil productivity by injecting it with Rhizobium (only if the crop is grown for the full season). Chickpeas are less water-intensive compared to other crops, making them a more sustainable option for farmers in regions where water is scarce.

However, despite the growth in chickpea production, there are still challenges that need to be addressed. For example; many African countries lack the infrastructure and support needed for the effective storage, processing, and marketing of chickpeas. Addressing these challenges will be key to ensuring that the growth in chickpea production leads to real benefits for African communities.