Our team, led by our managing director Alex Wafula, visited Bumula sub-county in Bungoma county on October 10, 2022, to meet with a few soybean growers. Bumula is a rural region endowed with plenty of rich lands, pleasant weather all year round, and an abundance of motivated and proactive small-scale farmers. Most farmers in the region are subsistence farmers, albeit they mostly raise maize and beans for food or to offset costs such as school fees, hospital bills, and other necessities.
Our primary goal in visiting the region was to do research on the state and scope of soybean farming in the area, as well as to promote soybean growing as a cash crop. When we arrive, we met Mr John Nyanja, who works with farmers on behalf of 2SCALE. 2SCALE provides its business champions (SMEs and farmer groups) and partners with a variety of support services that enable them to produce, develop, and supply high-quality food products.
Interest Is on The Rise
Mr John informed us that the initiatives he runs and helps to oversee are generating a lot of interest. Some farmers have between 4 and 6 acres of soybean cultivation area. “Although most of our people are reluctant to plant soybeans, some have expressed interest and opted to participate in our initiative. 2SCALE gives farmers ‘free’ seeds and then takes 2 kilos of soya beans for every 1 kilo kept by the farmer. “He stated.
The programme also purchases soybeans from farmers. The project is currently in its late pilot stage, with farmers from as far away as Busia county taking part. Bumula has excellent soils that can sustain soybean production without the requirement for inorganic fertiliser in most regions. To grow soybeans, most farmers use organic manure and solely foliar fertiliser. Bumula also has two rain seasons every year, with the first commencing in April and the second, known as the short rains, beginning in late August.
This implies that a farmer can cultivate and harvest two crops in a single year. As a result, various organisations have attempted to establish themselves in Bumula County with the goal of convincing farmers to cultivate soybeans for them. Many of them have struggled to persuade farmers in the area.
Soybean Farming as a Wealth Creation Program Vs. as a Poverty Elevation Model
The primary issue is the model that these organisations employ. The majority of them employ what is known as the POVERTY ELEVATION MODEL. This model has a short-term focus and causes farmers to perceive these organisations as ‘donors’ rather than ‘business partners.’ They will provide training and even minor equipment for value addition to entice farmers to join, but farmers always perceive these organisations are there to help them rather than conduct business with them, rendering their campaign void and null after a few seasons. Then enter the next player and the circle continues.
The WEALTH CREATION MODEL is the only method to ensure the long-term success of these campaigns. This technique, we believe, makes the farmer feel more like a business partner rather than a person in need of aid. Any support provided to these farmers should be done so in a way that validates this model. Organizations should not only focus on obtaining cheap raw materials from farmers. They should provide them with higher market pricing, and most significantly, farmers should feel like owners of the venture.
BIDCO, a Kenyan major firm that deals with commodities such as cooking oil and animal feed, has also been in the area and other parts of Kenya attempting to persuade farmers. Their soybean contract farming venture, on the other hand, has been on and off. The sustainability of such a project can only be realised if these organisations treat farmers as partners rather than as recipients of aid and assistance. Everything will be well if they make farmers their corporate partners.
There is Still a Long Way to Go
Even though soybean growing has strong community champions, such as Mr John Nyanja, getting farmers to switch from maize and bean production is difficult. Maize and beans are food crops for many farming families throughout the year. Soybean, on the other hand, is a cash crop; while many people do not use soybeans on a daily basis, our industries depend greatly on these grains.
Finding a balance between food crops and cash crops will be fantastic. This can be easily accomplished with the two planting seasons per year. Otherwise, our economy needs a lot of soybeans. From cooking oil to animal feed, soy milk to soy meat.