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Success of the first Soybean Processing Program in Afghanistan

in Afghan Business

Success of the first Soybean Processing Program in Afghanistan

By Dawood Essa- Since 2001, there have been many ongoing projects across Afghanistan, which have been funded by various international aid groups. One of the fundamental keystones to Afghanistan’s infrastructure is the growth of the agricultural sector; however, there has not been enough awareness about soybean crops and their advantages.

In 2010, the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) awarded an agricultural grant to the American Soybean Association (ASA). The program is designed to raise awareness about soybeans, their growth methods, cultivation, and processing stages. The program also has a protein-nutrition policy for Afghans.

In 2010, after receiving the grant, ASA sub-contracted a non-profit organization, SALT International (Sustainable Appropriate Local Technologies), to initiate the project.

In March 2012, SALT International set up their operations in Kabul, but then moved their project to the Balk province where the U.S government had set up an industrial park especially designed to encourage entrepreneurs to start up new factories and businesses. The industrial park is located on the outskirts of Mazar-e-Sharif and houses numerous lots for factories.

Since March 2012, SALT International has built the only soybean processing facility in Afghanistan. The aim of the project is to provide an efficient soybean processing facility that will encourage farmers to grow soybean crops and then sell them to the processing facility for a profit. The processing facility will then sell the processed soybeans for a profit as well. The project is designed to be self-sustaining by the end of the project. (September 2013)

The soybean processing facility was built in partnership with a local Afghan businessman. While SALT International shipped and provided all machinery, equipment, training, standard procedures, and monitored international standards of quality and processing, the Afghan local businessman was required to provide the building, manpower, and marketing assistance. The processing facility was granted 6000 metric tons of raw soybeans for initiation.

Currently, the processing facility is fully functional and is producing 5-6 metric tons of processed soybeans daily. The facility processes soybeans to make soy-flour, animal feed, and soy-oil. It is also selling all three products to local businesses as well as to other countries and has gapped an unimaginable goal, currently making a profit in such a short time.

The facility produces soy-flour, which has a high 46% protein content. Around 8-10% soy-flour can be mixed with normal flour to make nutrition-rich, high protein content bread. It also maximizes the shelf life of bread. A recent study done by the program shows that adding 8-10% of soy-flour into normal flour also costs less.

Animal feed is also produced by the facility. It is also rich in protein and is used mainly for livestock food. The facility has sold their soy animal feed product to several farms and has received positive feedback. Currently, there is a high demand for animal feed from the facility. Orders have even been placed from other countries such as Uzbekistan.

Soy-oil is a by-product of soybean processing. It is nutritious and has a very low level of fat compared to most cooking oils. The facility does not have an oil-refinery yet, but local businesses are buying the soy-oil and processing it themselves.

The program extends through Kabul, Balkh, Kunduz, and Takhar. Although the soybean processing plant is only located in Balkh, there are various training programs going on in other provinces. Farmers are being given soybeans in Kunduz and Takhar, and are being trained on growing and cultivating them. The soybean crop is easy to maintain, holds a profit, and finally the famers have a processing facility that they can sell their soybeans to. In Kabul, local bakeries and “Nan-wayis” are being trained on the benefits of adding soy-flour in their bread. Recently, the Soy Bean Factory is due to sign a contract worth over $1 million with local bakeries in Mazar-e-Sharif. The factory will be providing soy flour to the bakeries to be used in baking bread.

The program also has been monitored and approved by the United Nations World Food Program. Because of the high-protein flour produced at the plant, World Food Program has expressed their interest in using the soy-flour to be used in protein-biscuits that they will start distributing around the world.

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