Approximately 70% of the population in the semi- and arid tropics reside in rural areas and depend on agriculture for their livelihood. Crop production is primarily focused on a few starchy staple crops. While this can ensure adequate calories, it inadvertently neglects the need for dietary diversity. Consequently, food and nutritional insecurity remains prevalent in the semi- and arid tropics. We reviewed the legume value chain with the aim to identify opportunities and challenges to unlocking their value and promoting them in the tropics. Several grain legumes are rich in proteins and micronutrients. They also possess adaptability to marginal environmental conditions such as drought and low input systems which typify rural landscapes. Adaptability to abiotic stresses such as drought makes them key to agriculture in areas that will receive less rainfall in the future. However, this potential was currently not being realized due to a range of challenges. Aspects related to their seed systems, production, post-harvest handling and marketing remain relatively under-researched. This was especially true for minor legumes. There is a need for trans-disciplinary research which will address the entire value chain, as has been done for major starchy crops. This could also unlock significant economic opportunities for marginalized groups such as women. This will unlock their value and allow them to contribute meaningfully to food and nutrition security as well as sustainable and resilient cropping systems.
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