Challenges of soyabean production by black farmers: Part Two

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THROUGH appropriately targeted research, we have found that soyabean can be grown in many areas that were previously counted out as it were.
For example, many sandy soils as found in Chivhu, Zvimba, Centenary, Gokwe and even Buhera can support soyabean growth with moderate rainfall.
In soil science terms, loamy sand soil can support good soyabean production.
It is those sands with very little or no clay that fail to support soyabean growth.
So with knowledge from research, we were able to extend the ecological range of soyabean cropping.
That means farmers in areas previously discounted by so-called experts can in fact grow soyabeans.
The only work that still needs to be done is in the area of promotion and teaching farmers the correct management practices for soyabean production.
The information and experience is already there; what is needed is mobilisation of both people and resources.
That indeed would partly fulfill the Zim-ASSET agenda that the country is currently seized with: to explore and exploit all potential for increasing food production.
A third constraint for taking up soyabean has been marketing challenges.
Small scattered production creates a situation where buyers are unable to collect the crop economically.
Massive production in localised areas allows the economies of scale to come into play.
The Soyabean Promotion Task Force developed working models for solving some of these marketing challenges.
A major factor is linking the farmers to markets.
This partly resonates with contract farming where the soyabean has a ready market under the contract.
Farmer training and technical support is vital for soyabean production.
Just as football teams require constant coaching, farmers too require continuous technical and advisory services from extension organisations.
In Zimbabwe, we need to capacitate AGRITEX in terms of manpower and technical knowhow to support farmers taking up soyabean production.
Private sector players marketing specific products e.g. chemicals, must also educate farmers on correct and safe use of these essential agricultural inputs.
In this regard, the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) is working to mobilise partners and resources to take advantage of the experiences of its highly successful Soyabean Promotion Programme to take the soyabean to the villages and the new black-owned commercial farms.
This effort will be part of the university’s contribution to actualise the Zim-ASSET agenda.
Farmers must eat what they grow.
Our experience in promoting soyabean has been that the shortest route to a farmer’s heart is through his family’s stomach.
Deliberate training in home processing of soyabean for home consumption was a major driver for adoption.
The Soyabean Promotion Programme developed robust methods of training women and farmers in general to process soyabean for human consumption.
This is the lowest, but most essential ladder in the much-talked about value-addition process.
We add value to raw soyabean to improve the household food and nutrition security.
With that we also address the health factor as soyabean contains both protein and immune-boosting nutrients.
We do not need sophisticated machines to get started.
Lack of funds to purchase such machines is often used as an excuse for doing nothing.
We only seek for sophisticated equipment as the need to expand production and our capacity to utilise the same increases.
That is true development.
Turning to the farmers, soya-maize and soya-wheat crop rotations are sustainable.
Where resources are limited, farmers fertilise the cereal crop with basal compound fertilisers.
Top-dressing nitrogen fertiliser is availed through fixation by Rhizobium inoculants that cost only US$5 per hectare.
The soyabean is efficient at utilising residual nutrients such as phosphorus and potassium left in the soil by the cereal crop.
Rhizobium inoculants are locally (Zimbabwean) available and easy to apply.
Livestock farmers can and do feed their animals with both the stover (crop residues) and processed soyabean meal and apply the resultant manure to their fields cutting on fertiliser costs.
What better reason to take up soyabean production and link it to your livestock enterprise?
Soyabean-livestock linked enterprises are stable and sustainable.
Soyabean seed is expensive and this has prevented many farmers from taking up the crop.
But fortunately, soyabean, like groundnuts and roundnuts, is self-pollinated meaning that the seeds are genetically identical to the parents.
Farmers may thus use their own retained seed in cases where they cannot afford adequate quantities of certified seed.
Seed-borne diseases may lower yields for crops raised from retained seed.
Careful selection and cleaning of seed meant for planting will help to reduce seed-borne diseases.
Farmers may plant part of their lands with certified seed and the rest with seed retained from the immediate past season.
We have discussed some of the reasons why black farmers have not taken up soyabean production.
We have shown that most of the reasons were based on bias and that enough experience and information exists to enable black farmers to take up soyabean as a major cash and food crop.
In our next article we shall be going back to the field to see how soyabean crops can be managed as we move towards maturity and harvesting.

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