By Ketra Kalunga –
THE soya beans farming has a huge potential in Zambia but remained unexploited for various reasons.
The soya beans potential in terms of its contribution to the national economy has remained dormant due to various factors which include lack of technical support and upgrading.
This is so because its primary producers are predominantly smallholder farmers who constantly struggle with low productivity, access to quality and affordable seeds to finance and market their farming activities.
The situation is compounded by low mechanisation, despite the sub-sector remaining important to national food and nutrition security, economic growth, diversification, and promotion of rural investment.
Therefore, the Government in partnership with its cooperating partners is working to increase soya bean production to one million tonnes.
The partnership is under the Agri-food Systems Transformation Accelerator (ASTA), a joint initiative between the Food Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO).
FAO says the one million tonnes increase in soya bean production will be achieved through the implementation of the 2023-2032 Zambian Soybean Up-grading Strategy.
The strategy which was proposed by FAO and UNIDO focuses on increasing the efficiency and competitiveness of the sector through accelerated private and public investments.
According to FAO ASTA is a global systems-based programme which is used to assist countries in transforming their agri-food systems by facilitating locally-tailored, systems-based solutions into high-potential value chains.
These systems-based solutions respond to global trends and are financed by Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)-linked investments and delivered by innovative partnerships among and within the value chain’s actors.
FAO lead technical officer, Mar Polo says the programme aims to increase soya production which currently stands at about 760,000 tonnes to one million tonnes, leading to increased export volumes of soya beans and soya cake as well as other soya products like edible oil.
Ms Polo says the domestic supply of soya bean cake would increase from 50,000 tonnes to 200,000 tonnes.
Soya-based products and edible oil would increase from 168,000 tonnes to 450,000 tonnes and exports would rise from 26,000 tonnes to 250,000 tonnes.
She says in her presentation at the Soya Beans Value Chain Validation workshop held in Lusaka recently that direct beneficiaries are processors and service providers, particularly women and youth.
UNIDO agribusiness specialist Harshit Gupta says the programme will support small-scale farmers by increasing the market access of soya beans and its value-added products to local, regional, and global markets.
Mr Gupta says micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMES) which are smallholder seed growers’associations will also be supported with parent seeds, equipment, and irrigation to effectively undertake the production of certified soybean seed.
He says having MSME in soya bean processing will enhance the economic value of soya beans for local communities and introduce new economic opportunities.
There is, however, lack of technical capacity required to manage and operate a processing plant, marketing of by-products, and lack of access to affordable initial capital outlay.
Mr Gupta says, therefore, the potential investment of $ 349,200 to build technical capacity will focus on processing machines for distribution to MSMEs, training in machine operation, and business development skills.
“Local processing will help make readily available and affordable feed cake and soya products for human consumption,” he says.
Mr Gupta says Central and Eastern Provinces have been targeted and selected on the basis of regional potential and government priorities in a consultative process.
He says according to the Ministry of Agriculture Crop Forecasting Survey (CFS) data for 2022/2023, Central Province has the largest area under soya bean cultivation at more than 322 million hectares followed by the Eastern Province at 229 million hectares.
Eastern Province predominantly has small-scale farmers which have been targeted by this project.
Many large-scale soya bean processing companies are located in Central Province which makes a favourable location for the planned interventions.
Mr Gupta further says Central Province has good market linkages due to it being a major channel for trade between Lusaka and Copperbelt and its connectivity to Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the soya beans market.
FAO country representative Suze Percy Filippini says in Zambia, Soya beans is one of its priority value chains on account of its potential to address national nutrition and food security concerns.
It will create jobs for the women and youth, increase household incomes, and generate much-needed revenue for Zambia’s economic growth.
Ms Filippini said at the Final Validation of the Soya Beans Value Chain Workshop in Lusaka held recently.
Ms Filippini says for the targets to be met, the sector urgently needs technical support and upgrading.
She says this is because its primary producers are predominantly smallholder farmers who constantly struggle with low productivity, access to quality and afford seeds, to finance and market, and low mechanisation.
Ms Filippini says as a result, the value chain experiences significant inefficiencies that hinder its ability to meet the growing local and international demand, enhance livelihoods and alleviate poverty.
“Therefore, it is imperative for us to promote growth and modernisation within Zambia’s soya bean sector,” she says.
Agriculture Permanent Secretary for Technical Services Green Mbozi says the soya beans value chain remains important to national food and nutrition security, economic growth, diversification and promoting rural investment.
Mr Mbozi says it is, therefore, significant that the country enhanced the production and productivity of soya beans, especially for the smallholder farmers participating in soya bean production.
He says the potential of the agricultural sector is partly hampered by under-developed value chains including the soya beans value chain.
It is for this reason that the Government, together with FAO, has devised a Soya Beans Value Chain Investment Plan.
He says despite the many efforts made to enhance the soya beans value chain, it is still faced with a number of challenges which include limited access to finance and technology, affordable inputs, mechanisation and weak market access.
Mr Mbozi says to increase production and productivity in the agriculture sector the government is also finalising the Comprehensive Agricultural Transformation Support Programme (CATSP).
“And the soya beans value chain is one of them as it is well aligned to the CATSP and the Eighth National Development Plan (8NDP),” he says.
Mr Mbozi commends FOA for supporting the analysis of the soya beans value chain and advancing the development of the agricultural sector.
UNIDO says the economic benefits of the Soya Beans Up-grading Strategy are value addition and economic diversification, reduced price of soya processed products and permanent jobs created.
The social benefits are inclusive employment and reduced malnutrition and improved environment through the use of energy-efficient machinery.
The Soya Beans Upgrade Strategy is also expected to create a favourable trade regulatory framework and business environment, increased yields, added value, diversification and increased exports.