In Western Kenya, 2SCALE’s partnership with Equatorial Nut Processors (ENP) aims to improve the nutrition of Base-of-the-Pyramid(BoP) consumers. In collaboration with Anglican Development Services Western (ADS-W), the Business Support Services (BSS) provider, the partnership has since 2019 supported over 3,000 smallholder farmers by employing a range of innovative production solutions significantly increasing soybean production. Consequently, these solutions have promoted increased adoption of soybean value-addition practices in the region.
Since time immemorial, only a few farmers in soybean-producing regions have been engaging in soybean value-addition at the household level. To intensify the impact of 2SCALE interventions and enhance access to affordable and nutritious food for low-income consumers, farmers were trained to commercialize soy-based products. Eric Kataka, the Inclusive Agribusiness Adviser for this partnership narrates:
Cottage level-based soybean value addition was introduced in this partnership as a sustainability measure in making sure that the farmers get additional income streams. It has also led to increased consumption of soybean at the household level. This diversification will also lead to reduced over-reliance on one soybean off-taker (Equatorial Nut Processors) which leads to 10%-20% of the grains remaining unsold, especially during high season. Most farmers were employing a traditional way to produce soy products that involved the use of mortars and pestles. This was very labor-intensive and time-consuming. To improve efficiency, the partnership supported 25 women-led soybean farmer producer organizations, comprising 24 young men, 94 young women, 76 senior men and 306 senior women, with soykits. This kit contains various tools for each step in the soybean value-addition process. These include a grinder, a blender, a heat retention bag, a food thermometer, a scale, and gloves.
This intervention came to seize the opportunity that exists in the soybean value chain, particularly during a period when consumers have become aware of the need to consume readily available nutritious and affordable food.
Soybean value addition at the cottage level has spurred entrepreneurial spirit among youth and women soybean farmers in the region. Besides the mushrooming of women and youth-led MSMEs, income-generating streams have been created thereby improving the economic facets of local households in western Kenya. More than six outlets selling value-added soybean products such as soy flour, crunches, cakes, soy milk, and soy yogurt among others have been set up in various towns in the region.
Intensifying soybean value-addition activities
Gaudencia Ong’wen is a soybean farmer who has successfully tapped into the commercialization of value-added soybean products. Supported by ADS-W, she has expanded her soybean farming activities and consequently grown her business of making and selling soy products such as milk, yogurt, soy beverage, mandazis (scones), and crunches. As a member of the Shepamba Self-Help Group, she has access to a soy kit which enables her to produce high-quality products in a timely manner. She narrates,
Before we got the soy kit, it would take me up to three hours to grind soybean using the mortar and pestle. Currently, grinding the same quantity using a soy kit acquired through 2SCALE support takes me just 30 minutes! My shop is stocked with soy products for my customers, and it has become a one-stop shop for people who appreciate and prefer soybean-based products!
The soykit technology has seen six of the 25 groups engage in intensive value addition. By processing between five to ten kilograms of soybeans per day, they can produce significant quantities of both soy milk, yoghurt, and soy flour. In Kakamega, soy flour has become popular in the market. It is very diverse and can therefore be used to produce various nutritious products. Julia Ogola, a member of Shepamba Self-Help Group explains,
We grind soybean grains to make soy flour. This flour can be used to prepare nutritious cakes, mandazi, chapati, porridge and cookies that are sold to diverse markets. Usually, the youth members in our group are delegated to take the flour to the market after production.
Initially, the farmers had been aggregating most of their produce for off-taking by Equatorial Nuts Processors and other buyers. However, with increased value-addition activities, most farmers see the need to increase soybean production so they can have sufficient quantities to sell as well as make value-added soybean products. The groups have so far established their businesses and are producing nutritious soybean value-added products that they avail to BoP consumers, as well as institutional markets such as schools and hospitals.
The groups have also invested in improving the packaging of their products to appeal to more customers and establish their brand in the market. They have switched from using polythene papers to plastic tins and bottles for most of their soy products.
Lyn Osaka, a member of Pamoja youth group, shares some of the feedback they have received from regular consumers of their products. She says,
Many of our customers have said that they enjoy our soy products. When we started, we had very few customers but now, the products have become very popular. The most popular product is soy beverage powder. Consumers consider it a great substitute for tea or coffee. Our crunches are also always in demand among the youth.
Reaping big from value-added soybean products
Lyn bears witness to the impact of soybean value addition on their income. In the region, a kilogram of soybean grains retails at a maximum price of Ksh. 90 ($ 0.7) whereas from the same quantity, the groups can process up to ten liters of soy milk, which retails at Ksh. 60 ($ 0.47) per litre. This means that through value-addition, their income can increase sixfold and even more with other soy products such as crunches. She shares,
We appreciate the training and support from ADS-W and 2SCALE on soybean production and value-addition. The price we get for selling our soybean grains is good but the products bring in more income. I would encourage more farmers to consider soybean farming. On top of having high nutritional value, its diversity presents a great opportunity to earn a good living.