Soybean farmers in east and southern Africa get a boost

Smallholder farmers in east and southern Africa could benefit from a project to innovate ways to help unlock barriers in regional soybean value chains.

The UK-funded FoodTrade East and Southern Africa (FoodTrade ESA) has awarded £1million (about US$1.2 million) to Classic Foods Limited of Kenya and Seba Foods Limited of Zambia to help farmers improve yields, access appropriate storage solutions and market for their produce.

Isaac Tallam, market system expert at FoodTrade ESA, says soybean demand has increased in Africa because of growing animal feed industry and household consumptions.

“In addition to being a source of oil, soybean is used in other industrial processes, with multiple benefits for various actors along the entire value chain,” Tallam tells SciDev.Net.

“Some challenges the projects are meant to tackle include lack of certified seeds, and lack of ready markets,” he says.

Tallam told SciDev.Net on 23 February that soybean is an important regional food and cash crop because of its industrial characteristics. It also restores soil fertility through nitrogen fixing.

About 28.6 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa grow soybean for commercial and subsistence use.

The two companies, which were selected from 90 applications from nine countries across east and southern Africa, are using the fund announced in January this year to ensure farmers get quality certified seeds, training in good agricultural practices, post-harvest crop management and provide them with a ready market.

“This will ultimately lead to income diversification of the smallholder farmers engaged through contract farming…and mitigate against the effects of climate change,” says Tallam.

Gaurav Vijayvargiya, global business head at Zambia-based Seba Foods Limited, says there has been increasing consumption of processed soybean products within Zambia over the last five years.

We have embarked on training and developing the skills of smallholder farmers to increase their yields. We are aiming to have more women beneficiaries,” he says.

Wachira Kariuki, chief executive officer of Classic Foods Ltd, says there has been imports from South America and India to cover soybean products deficit in east and southern Africa.

“Key challenges faced by smallholder farmers include lack of farming skills and technical knowhow on soy bean farming, which is compounded by unpredictable weather patterns,” he notes.

His company will enhance crop production among smallholder farmers through extension services, provision of inputs as well as improve post-harvest crop management.

According to Haggai Oduori, agriculture and applied economics expert at Kenya-based Tegemeo Institute of Agricultural Policy and Development at Egerton University, the project could be successful.

“Our value chain players lack coherent networks and trust. If the project will address governance and logistical issues it will unlock some of the barriers,” Oduori says.

Farmers, he adds, need locally assembled hermetic bags to reduce post-harvest losses, and the lack of contract enforcement has kept many farmers out of markets.

“Supporting local businesses to contract large numbers of farmers to produce at guaranteed prices would stimulate development of agribusiness value chains,”

This article was originally published on Soybean farmers in east and southern Africa get a boost