Soy has great nutritional and financial benefits for smallholder farmers, as one of the few plant-based sources of high-quality protein. However, many smallholders lack the basic knowledge of small-scale soy processing and how to incorporate protein-rich soy ingredients into their diets. The Soybean Innovation Lab (SIL) provides intensive and interactive village-level trainings (VLT) and training-of-trainers (TOT) focused on soy processing, soy nutrition and soy integration into local cuisines. The training provides smallholder farmers with the necessary skills to process their soybeans using tools they already have, with minimal energy inputs.
In each village workshop, participants learn how to turn soybeans into soymilk, tofu and flour, all of which can be used to enhance local dishes. Soy has a neutral flavor which makes it adopt the flavor of the dish to which it is added. The workshops also teach participants about basic nutrition, the role of protein in promoting healthy development of bones and bodies, and the value of adding soy-based protein to their families’ diets.
Sessions include food safety and refrigeration in rural environments (to prevent spoiling and food-borne illness), budgeting for dietary changes and can include instruction on processing additional local nutritious foods, such as orange-fleshed sweet potato and groundnuts.
SIL developed this VLT curriculum from research it conducted in Mozambique about processing soy in rural contexts. SIL trainers led pilot sessions on soy processing to learn which tools typically are available in villages, how to organize sessions and how different soy foods fit into local diets. This field research directly informed the design of the VLT curriculum, which regional SIL trainers now deliver upon request.
SIL’s TOT model for this training involves a cascaded approach to spreading soy processing knowledge to rural farmers who need the information most. SIL directly trains staff from NGOs and development agencies who operate on the ground and have pre-existing relationships with their beneficiaries, as well as knowledge about local practices and cultures. SIL’s training empowers these trainers to share the knowledge with their entire NGO, which will send trainers directly to villages. These NGO’s can opt to lead another TOT session by training village leaders, who will share the soy knowledge with the cooks in their villages.
The SIL VLT involves monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of NGO trainers, as well as a session that teaches NGO trainers how to design and conduct M&E of their own trainers. SIL has implemented this training for 8 NGOs in the Lilongwe area of Malawi, and these NGOs are projected to teach over 3000 rural Malawians about soy nutrition and processing.
Food Science & Human Nutrition
University of Illinois