Japan funds processing centres, boosting Kenya’s soybean sector
WESTERN KENYA, 29 May 2013 - Three small-scale pilot processing plants serving soybean farming communities in western Kenya were inaugurated today, providing an important boost to the country’s emerging soybean sector. The plants are part of a project funded by the Government of Japan and implemented by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), together with the Ministry of Industrialization and the Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute.
Kenya’s soybean processing industry, concentrated in Nairobi and Nakuru, is well-established, but it has relied on imported soybeans as the annual demand for 150,000 – 200,000 tonnes per year greatly exceeds the annual local production of 2,000 tonnes. Despite the demand and the fact that soybean grows well in Kenya, farmers in the western part of the country have been reluctant to grow soybeans. A lack of knowledge about how soybeans can be used to make food, combined with an uncertainty about the market price after harvest, has contributed to low production levels.
This situation is set to change now that smallholder farmers in western Kenya can see the new processing plants in action. One plant located in Kisumu, Nyanza Province, will mainly produce soy milk, a highly nutritious beverage, and a residue that can be used as livestock feed. The two other plants, one in Migori, Nyanza Province, and one in Malakisi, Western Province, will produce soybean flour and blend it with maize to produce a nutritionally enhanced porridge mix.
The project combines long-term industrial development and immediate humanitarian relief efforts. Industrial development is supported by manufacturing and popularizing highly nutritious foods, such as soy milk and soy-maize blends. Initially, the food produced at the processing centres will be donated by the project to humanitarian organizations for distribution among famine-stricken people, as well as vulnerable groups, such as orphans and school children suffering from hunger and malnutrition.
The inauguration ceremonies for the soybean processing plants were attended by high-level federal and local officials, including Cyrus Njiru, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Industrialization; Mahanga Mwita, Deputy Governor of Migori Country; and Charles Moturi, CEO of the Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute; as well as members of the Kenya Soybean Farmers’ Association (KESOFA) and of the local communities.
In his inauguration speech, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Industrialization stressed the importance of increasing value addition for wealth creation and of the development of new soybean products for the market. For his part, the Deputy Governor of Migori Country stated that the establishment of the Migori plant would motivate local farmers to grow more soybeans. This opinion was shared by Reverend George Kivandah, Chairman of KESOFA, who voiced the support of soybean farmers for the processing plants which, he said, they considered as their own and believe will contribute to better nutrition for families and to job creation opportunities for the local youth.