by Dennis Thompson
The Soybean Value Chain initiative is led by a steering committee of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) with the goal to increase awareness of soybeans as a commercial crop and develop a soybean value chain that will provide sustainable economic benefits to farmers and farming communities.
The soybean project has been funded through the Global Food Initiative of the Church of the Brethren, and the Nigeria Crisis Response which is a joint effort with EYN. It is part of the rebuilding phase of the Nigeria Crisis Response.
Collaboration first began between the US Feed the Future Soybean Innovation Lab (SIL) and the Church of the Brethren in 2016. The church sponsored a study tour for a joint Nigerian and Liberian delegation to spend time with me at the Soybean Innovation Lab’s SMART FARM in Ghana to discuss and learn about the power of the soybean value chain.
Church of the Brethren Global Food Initiative manager Jeffrey Boshart, who was born in Jos, Nigeria, spearheads this unique collaboration between the US Brethren, EYN, and SIL. He recently led a three-member US delegation to visit his EYN brothers and sisters. Accompanying Boshart was Pennsylvania Church of the Brethren pastor and dairy farmer Christian Elliot and me. The purpose of our visit was to interact with EYN leadership, EYN steering committee members, and participating farmers who were learning more about the scope of the soybean value chain.
The team made 20 visits to soybean production locations in the areas of Gombi, Kwarhi, Biu, Abuja, and Jos. The visits allowed ample observation of soybean field operations and interactions with individual farmers, farmer groups and the numerous EYN soybean value chain project support personnel who trained and worked with the farmers. The experience was beneficial in that it allowed observation of pilot project strategy effectiveness and program implementation effectiveness.
As a direct result of the 2017 EYN Soybean Value Chain pilot project, 100,000 farmers increased knowledge and awareness of the potential of soybeans as a commercial crop providing the soybean value chain can be further developed. Development will be necessary to assure the presence of sustained economic benefit to farmers, communities and supporting industries comprising the agricultural economy.
I was extremely impressed with the level of commitment and particularly of the level of personal implementation involvement that can be attributed to the seven highly talented individuals who comprise the EYN Soybean Value Chain steering committee. The results they have brought forth to-date (awareness and practical soybean production) are quite meaningful and their collective efforts most exemplary.
The next key piece of the puzzle is now underway. The steering committee is working toward the successful structuring of an effective and equitable marketing program that will inspire confidence in buyers and sellers alike--one that provides opportunity and assurance of economic benefit to all parties, whether directly or indirectly involved in the production and or utilization of soybeans.
The steering committee and I were elated to learn that the Church of the Brethren will provide project continuation funding to EYN for the 2018 year. I look forward to an opportunity for a return engagement to further interact with and support steering committee members as they consider program modifications that will further their work during 2018, and better serve farmers in the future.
-- Dennis Thompson is a principal investigator for US Feed the Future Soybean Innovation Lab, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.