Blog

Cowpea: A tolerant, unfailing friend

Friends are hard to come by in times of war and when you’re hungry even a single morsel of food can be your best friend. During the 1860s, in the United States, the Civil War put food security to the test. Starvation was threatening but there was one crop which helped save the people of the South. General Robert E. Lee called it “the only unfailing friend the Confederacy ever had.”

Lee called that friend a “cornfield pea.” It’s unclear whether he thought it ironic that the crop which saved so many Confederate lives was brought to the Americas by enslaved African people. Despite the pea’s association with the evils of slavery giving it a sorry reputation, it later became a popular dish all over the South, traditionally eaten on New Year’s Day. It is better known as the cowpea or black-eyed pea and bears the affectionate name of Hoppin’ John. And it continues to save millions of people from starvation.

“The cowpea has nourished people for many centuries,” said Ousmane Boukar, a cowpea breeder working with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Nigeria. “But now it needs a hand to ensure it can continue to be an unfailing friend even while the climate crisis is affecting production.” Boukar, a Cameroonian who developed a taste for cowpeas as a child, is leading a project to unite the crop with its distant cousins in the wild to develop climate-smart varieties.

Read the full story on CWR

News

Filter by
  • News
  • Social
Blog

Using crop diversity to fight hidden hunger

Read More
In the News

Pandemics aren’t limited to people

Read More
In the News

A vault for seeds

Read More
Blog

Why an equitable food system depends on diversity

Read More
Science Blog

Big, dynamic, and complicated: Celebrating International Day for Biological Diversity

Read More
Blog

Cowpea: A tolerant, unfailing friend

Read More
Blog

International Hummus Day: Celebrating the Chickpea

Read More
Blog

From Orchard to Oven: the not-so-American Apple Pie

Read More
Blog

An alfalfa that loves the cold

Read More
Event

GLF Live with Tony Simons, Charlotte Lusty, Lava Kumar and Vania Azevedo

Read More
Blog

Svalbard, A Day in the Life

Read More
Press Release

Supercharging the Next Generation of Climate-Smart Crops in Sub-Saharan Africa

Read More