Soybean production in Africa and other developing regions has the potential to alleviate hunger and boost local economies. But the transition from traditional crops such as cowpea or cassava to a major commercial crop such as soybean is fraught with challenges. The Soybean Innovation Lab (SIL), housed in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois, is funded by USAID’s Feed the Future initiative to help bring research-based innovation and technology to develop soybean production in Sub-Saharan Africa.
“The challenge is to feed the world and strengthen agriculture in developing countries,” says Peter Goldsmith, director of SIL and professor of agricultural and consumer economics at U of I. “We conduct research that provides the answers to real questions facing practitioners working along the value chain, thereby helping to inform smart development and sustainable policies,” he adds.
Goldsmith explains that SIL’s economics team supplies critical information that can be put into practice by organisations working directly with farmers. In one study, SIL researchers investigated the viability of soybean production for smallholder farmers in Ghana, especially women. The data originated with a donor organization that wanted to bring soybean production to hundreds of women farmers. The sponsor assumed that using a standard rollout of training and market linkages could make soybean a successful smallholder crop. Phys News