At the beginning of its establishment, the Humidtropics Innovation Platform of the Kiboga and Kyankwanzi districts in Uganda identifiedÂ the following commoditiesÂ as importantÂ components ofÂ the main farming system: maize, soybean, agro-forestry and livestock (both districts selected poultry and piggery, and in Kyankwanzi, cattle was added as it is part of the wider cattle corridor in Uganda).
With the two districts being established maize growers, the Platform decided to first focus on the soybean and maize components of the system. Later on, they would start building up the system connecting these crops with the other selected commodities such as agro-forestry, poultry and piggery.
In early April, 23 farmers were selected for the establishment of plots in their farms to grow soybean and maize to demonstrate different techniques and their relative effectiveness in terms of yields. The crops are currently growing well and farmers are happy to actually see the differences between the different techniques. Nevertheless, a fear remains that even when the crops perform well, the market for soybean might not be available.
In order to tackle this potential problem, the Kiboga/Kyankwanzi Platform is working hard to improve linkages between different key actors that can play a role in securing the soybean market. Therefore the idea is to explore how nutrition can be improved by the introduction of soybean as a protein source through animal feeds and/or human foods; and how to strengthen the links between keyÂ local stakeholders, such asÂ processors and livestock farmers, in orderÂ to absorb soybean, thusÂ contributing to the system in terms of nutrition and farm diversification.
In June, the Platform organized a meeting between farmers growing these crops, commercial livestock farmers and processers from both districts to jointly explore options that can reinforceÂ the links between soybeans and the local market.
During the meeting, people discussed concerns, explored opportunities and finally came to decisions about how to move forward. Some main challenges that were pointed out were:
- Lack of knowledge at different levels on the nutritional properties of soybean;
- Lack of knowledge on harvesting, post handling and adding value in soybean;
- Small market, due to lack of knowledge within the farmer community.
In addition, key opportunities were identified such as:
- Big local market potential;
- Opportunity to improve nutrition in both districts, through animal feeds and human foods, and by adding soybean in school feeding programs.
To move forward, it was resolved that the knowledge gap among stakeholders had to be closed by organising training in July with two objectives:
- To provide knowledge for those animal feed mixers and livestock commercial farmers that are interested in reducing fish protein in their feeds (much more expensive) and include soybean;
- To provide training to farmers and other stakeholders on how different products can be processed from soybean and thus making it more available to the community for nutrition improvement.
Overall, these meetings to strengthen the linkages between different actors in the system are essential activities forÂ Humidtropics as they assure that research is actually translated to impact for the farmers and their community.
Blog by Perez Muchunguzi and Anna Sole Amat of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), and Dieuwke Lamers of Wageningen University (WUR).