Rubirizi: Despite soya beans’ low local consumption, production of the crop is set to pick up in most parts of the country.
Commodity experts contend that increased awareness about soya beans’ potential is pushing the price closer to that of traditional cash crops such as coffee and cotton. And farmers from the newly-created district of Rubirizi are now gearing up for soya beans production, following the launch of a production and marketing value chain project in the area.
The initiative aims to raise soya beans production in Rubirizi from 200 tonnes to 800 tonnes per season, and boost marketing and value addition. It is also aimed at reducing malnutrition in the area.
Volunteer Efforts for Development Concerns (VEDCO), an NGO working to improve livelihoods of small and medium holder farmers through sustainable agriculture, is implementing the project in partnership with Community Volunteer Initiative for Development (COVOID), with support from Farm Africa.
“This is a three-year project targeting 50 farmer groups, 80 per cent of which are women farmers. We will look at processing so that farmers get better prices through value addition,” said Nancy Rapando, the VEDCO Programme Coordinator.
Rubirizi LC V Chairperson David Kisembo stressed the need for high production and marketing of the crop.
“The medicine is to have the soya beans grown, eaten and sold,” Kisembo said.
The region is currently dependent on bananas, beans, maize and coffee for their livelihoods. But the volatile weather changes have dealt a blow to the crops, rendering them unproductive.
“All the maize and beans died. Now we are waiting for rains to start planting again,” said farmer Bernard Bukuzi.
But while this could be a welcome idea, farmers are concerned about the market, inputs and sustainability of the project. With support from Farm Africa, through funding from Rockefeller Foundation, the Rubirizi project, estimated at Shs 300m, is the seventh soya beans project being implemented by VEDCO. Similar initiatives have been implemented in Lira, Apac, Mukono, Kamuli, Luuka and Kamuli.
“For us as Farm Africa, we want to make sure we work with farmers and develop systems for them to reach sustainable markets,” said Monicah Nyang, the Programme Coordinator of Farm Africa’s Maendeleo Agricultural Enterprise Fund (MAEF)
Soya beans are a major source of vegetable protein and oil for human and animal consumption. They are also seen as having great potential for commercialization and industrialization of the agricultural sector.
Food and soil analysts regard soya beans as a magic bullet to the rampant malnutrition in the country, in addition to silver fish, which is getting depleted in the lakes.