Soybean, most commonly grown in North America, South America, and Asia, has only gained limited adoption in Africa. Although its production is increasing in some African countries such as Nigeria and South Africa, very small acreage is planted to soybeans in Kenya.
Dubbed one of the most promising sources of affordable protein, soybean holds a promise for Africa’s growing protein demand either for human consumption in the face of growing population, or, as animal feed. Soybean is the richest in protein (about 36%) and can yield about 5-10 times as much protein per unit area compared to other crops.
Most in developing countries face significant protein deficiency as they can’t afford to consume meat or poultry. Soybean contains similar amino acids as animal protein and could help meet the protein demand for a balanced nutrition. In addition, soybean is believed to have multiple health benefits.
Globally, the most significant use of soybeans is for livestock feed. Typically, soybean oil is extracted for human consumption and the remaining soybean meal is fed to animals. This sector is also rapidly growing in most parts of Africa and is expected to continue to grow in the future, as meat and poultry consumption is increasing with improved economy. Therefore, soybean production also needs to increase to meet the growing protein demand in Africa.
Although environmental conditions in Western Kenya appear to be favorable, soybean production is limited. The AMPATH and Corteva team is training farmers to create awareness about the many benefits of soybean. Soybean could be more profitable for small scale farmers, particularly during the small rainy season in August and September, that are primarily planted to dry beans and some maize. Maize planted during small rainy season is prone to attack by the invasive fall armyworm and soybean yields more compared to dry beans, increasing profitability. By adopting soybean into crop rotations, will minimize fall armyworm, plus, enrich soil fertility as it fixes nitrogen.
Widespread soybean adoption could take few years in Western Kenya as our team works to resolve two key challenges: availability of quality soybean varieties adapted to this region and ensuring that there is a reliable market. We are currently working on these issues through collaboration with key partners. In the meantime, we will continue to engage farmers in the discussions to ensure that they are knowledgeable on the benefits of soybeans and best agronomic practices.