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African farmers benefit from soybean trade

Small farmers in both Rwanda and Malawi are benefitting from an initiative backed by the American-based Clinton Foundation.

The New York foundation and its partner Africa Improved Foods (AIF) are helping to source soybeans from farming communities in Malawi for the AIF market in Rwanda.

The trade will support farmers’ livelihoods and strengthen local agricultural economies.

This partnership began in the 2018/2019 season, when over the course of four months AIF purchased 997 tonnes of soybeans produced by CDI farming communities in Malawi, generating more than $408,000 for the farmers.

This season, despite challenges due to Covid-19, AIF purchased nearly double the volume of soybeans as the previous season at above Malawi market prices.

In total, nearly 1,793 tonnes were produced by farmer cooperatives and marketing groups in Malawi, generating $773,536 for the AIF market.

This injection of revenue going directly into the hands of farmers is a critical step in building not only trust between farming communities and the markets but also resilient and sustainable regional trade.

Paradzai Thompson, Sourcing Manager Agricultural Commodities for Africa Improved Foods Rwanda, stressed that the partnership with the Clinton Development Initiative (CDI) has resulted in AIF purchasing an additional 1,855 tonnes from other traders in Malawi, generating an additional $850,864 in foreign currency for the country.

These soya beans are used to produce supplementary nutritious foods that are used to fight malnutrition in thousands of children.

Alexis Mucumbitsi, Head of Nutrition at the National Early Childhood Development Program (NECDP), pointed out the importance of their collaboration with AIF with regards to providing fortified foods to pregnant and breastfeeding mothers and children in a bid to fight malnutrition.

“AIF’s fortified, blended foods are distributed to vulnerable families with pregnant and lactating women as well as children from six to 24 months,” she said.

For nearly a decade, CDI has worked across Rwanda, Malawi, and Tanzania.

In Malawi, CDI has focused on increasing the cultivation of soybeans as an alternative to traditional cash-crops such as tobacco.

By supporting the transition to soybeans, CDI has been able to build more sustainable and alternative revenue streams for smallholder communities.

Taziona Mchira, Community Agribusiness Markets Manager for CDI Malawi, said: “The partnership between AIF and CAB farmers demonstrates the vast possibility of integrating smallholder farming communities into structured markets.

“As the partnership follows a demand-pull approach, it becomes easier and more efficient to identify critical bottlenecks impeding the flow of commodities from the producers to the off-taker.

“During the whole process, CDI plays a pivotal role to anchor and facilitate these transactions.”

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