Afghan farmers increase soybean production to fight malnutrition
For the past 12 years, Nutrition & Education International (NEI), a non-governmental organization funded by the Republic of Korea, has significantly improved the health and well-being of thousands of malnourished women and children throughout Afghanistan – all with the simple soybean.
Not only is this miracle bean high in protein, omega 3 oil, and amino acids required for healthy human development, it is also easy to grow, affordable, and delicious when used in traditional Afghan recipes.
The backbone of NEI’s soybean program is its farmers. In 2016 alone, over 17,400 farming households in 31 provinces grew soybeans as a second harvest to wheat. NEI trained these farmers on how to grow soybeans, providing them with the necessary seeds, fertilizers, and tools to become successful and self-reliant.
The result? In 2016, Afghan farmers produced over 6,000 tons of soybeans – a record crop for the country – making this highly nutritious and affordable food available to even more Afghan families. On average, farmer’s harvested 2.7 tons of soybeans per hectare, with Balkh province, in northern Afghanistan, leading soybean production at over 1,350 tons. Afghan farmers reserve a portion of their crop for home consumption, using soybeans as an ingredient in soy palaw, soy naan, and other recipes developed by NEI.
For perspective, Iran and Pakistan, two of Afghanistan’s neighbors, have long recognized the benefit of soybeans and produced over 1.6 million and 1.3 million tons of soybeans, respectively, in recent years. Afghanistan’s lower production levels are to be expected as the country only began growing soybeans in 2006 when NEI initiated its soybean program.
Together with its business partners, NEI has established seven soy processing factories located in Kabul, Herat, Nangarhar, Kapisa, Takhar, Kunduz, and Parwan provinces. These factories produce soy biscuits, soy flour, roasted soy nuts, and tofu. New factories are currently being built to produce soy oil, texturized soy protein, and sterilized soy milk. The sterilized soy milk factory will be the first in the country, producing 40,000 single serve pouches per day.
NEI, supported by the Republic of Korea, The World Food Program, and various Afghan government ministries, plans to expand its soybean farmer program in 2018 and beyond so that every Afghan citizen is guaranteed access to this nutritious, affordable miracle bean.
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