Soybean is the most nutritious crop in the world containing 40% protein and 20% oil, both of which are vital in human and animal diet.
Soybean contains at least 100% more proteins than any other common crop and yields 5-10 times more protein per unit area than other crops.
The protein in soybean is also balanced. It contains all the essential amino acids which the body cannot manufacture.
Because of its nutritional superiority, soybean flour is often blended with cereal flours such as maize to boost their nutritional value.
The amount of proteins found in soybean is similar to animal proteins, which makes it the only substitute to animal and fish protein.
Due to the crop’s high nutritional content, soybean based foods are highly recommended by nutritional specialists to children, mothers and HIV patients.
With the available technology for processing soybeans at industrial and household level, soybean has become one of the most promising food crops available to improve the diets of millions of people in the world.
Soybean protein consumption has been observed to provide protection against heart disease by lowering serum cholesterol by 33%.
Studies have also shown that regular soy food consumption can reduce the risk of rectal cancer by 80%, mammary tumor by 40% and breast cancer by 50%.
For this reason, consumption of 25grammes of soy protein a day was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 1999 as a means to reduce the risk of heart disease.
Soybean oil is 85% unsaturated, comprising linolenic acid (omega 3 fatty acid) and oleic acid which have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease.
It also contains isoflavones which increase artery and heart health.
Countries whose diets are based on soybean such as China, Japan and Korea are known to have long life expectancy and experience minimum cases of cancers.
Available improved soybean varieties
The National Soybean breeding Programme, based at Makerere University bred, developed and released four improved soybean varieties that are high-yielding (2000 – 3000kg per hectare), early maturing (95-105 days) and resistant to diseases for commercial production in Uganda.
The varieties are Maksoy 3N, Maksoy 2N, Maksoy 1N and Namsoy 4M released between 2004 and 2010. T
he high yield of improved varieties results in production of 800 – 1200kg per hectare above the local varieties.
Foundation seed of these varieties is available at Makerere University Agricultural Research Institute Kabanyolo (MUARIK).
With these well adapted soybean varieties to the Ugandan environment, the soybean crop enterprise presents a highly affordable, source of proteins for the country’s populations.
The crop can be grown in both first and second seasons of the year.
Demand for soybeans
There is an enormous demand for soybean currently. Over 100,000MT for Kenya, 50,000MT for Rwanda, Tanzania and DRC.
In addition, Mount Meru Oil Mills has installed a solvent extraction facility in Uganda, the first of its kind in the country. It requires 300tonnes of soybeans per day.
Other soybean processing plants purchasing soybean include; Mukwano industries, Seba foods – Tororo, Maganjo Grain Millers Limited – Kawempe Maganjo, Kayebe Source Packers – Gayaza Kasangati, East African Basic Foods – Gaba, UgaChick Uganda limited – Makigye, Formula Feeds – Kanyanya and Biyinzika Farmers – Seeta, Mukono.
All these companies are not receiving enough soybean to operate at full capacity. At times, they are forced to import soybean from DR Congo to fill the deficit gap.
All this means that the farmer can produce soybean with a sure market. The produce (soybean) sold will lead to increased farmers’ income, improved food security and poverty eradication at rural house hold level.
Sustaining soil productivity Being a leguminous plant soybean possess root nodules (round swellings on the roots) that host nitrogen fixing bacteria called rhizobium, which fixes atmospheric nitrogen into the soil. Soybean is reported to fix 100 – 190kg of pure nitrogen per hectare.
Therefore, it improves soil properties by enhancing moisture retention and nitrogen fixation.
Because of such properties, it is recommended to include soybean in crop rotation schemes for purposes of soil fertility improvement and control of pests.
Experience from countries like Nigeria, Zambia, Sri Lanka has shown that utilisation of soybean provides a supplement or an alternative source of cheap high quality protein to the local diets. This in turn stimulates increased production.
In the 1990s, IITA working with other several national research institutes in Nigeria have popularised soybean production and consumption using acceptable recipes for the incorporation of soybean into local dishes.
This effort to introduce soybean Nigeria was successful where communities producing and using soybeans had more nutritionally normal children and fewer malnourished children than those which did not.
In the Nigerian Guinea savanna, adoption of soybean has had a clear positive impact on house hold social economic status of rural communities by enhancing better nutritional status of children and income of both men and women.
Crop of great potential
The aspects mentioned above make soybean an ideal crop for commercialisation and industrialisation of Uganda, especially in Agro processing.
This is why soybean has been dubbed: the poor mans’ meat, gold from soil, the prodigious crop, miracle crop of many uses, God’s gift to nature and crop of the future.