YouthMappers: Mapping the Soybean Value Chain and its Challenges

This blog was written by Bert Manieson, Sabina Abuga and Francis Debrah, students from the University of Cape Coast chapter of YouthMappers. YouthMappers is a consortium of university chapters dedicated to the use of GIS data to better understand issues in regions of extreme poverty where USAID works. The Soy Innovation Lab (SIL) has collaborated with YouthMappers on a student project to generate geographical information systems (GIS) data on the spatial configuration of key installations within the soybean value chain in and around Kumasi, Ghana. This blog post originally appeared on the SIL's Notes from the Field blog on 23 August 2018. 

 

 

The past two weeks has been a very exciting and a learning opportunity for YouthMappers from the University of Cape Coast as we collaborate with the Soybean Innovation Lab to map out soybean processing plants in Kumasi, Ghana. For this team, field experience has been an awesome opportunity for us to learn more about the soybean value chain in Ghana. 

 

Soybean is an important cash crop which is rich in protein with the biggest producers being the USA, Brazil and Argentina.  It consists of 80% meal and 20% oil. Globally, about 97% of it goes to animal feed production, 3% as food for human consumption and 0.3% for industrial purpose. The multiplying effect of soybean coupled with its high nutritional value makes it an essential crop. 

 

After series of presentations on the soybean industry by Professor Peter Goldsmith and the designing of our instrument, we were ready to hit the field to collect data on the soybean processing plants and to interview the processors and some key players within the value chain.

 

From the responses we gathered from the field data collections, we got to understand how these processors get their grains. In Ghana, all the soybean farmers are located at the three northern regions of the country namely, the Upper West, Upper East and the Northern Region of Ghana. Most of the farmers there are poor and do not have enough capital to cultivate enough soybeans. They usually engage in small farming to cultivate their grains. Because the produce of most farmers do not meet the demand for the grains by processors, it creates the opportunity for middlemen who collect grains from several farmers, store them and sell them to processors when they have enough in stock. Other processors also prefer to support some farmers by supplying them with fertilizers and the needed materials to help them cultivate large quantities of the grain and then buy it from them.

 

 

For most processors, they tend to hire the services of the haulage. This is because some of them do not own their own trucks and even if they do, they often find it appropriate and efficient to allow the haulage to do the job of transporting the bean from the farms to the processing sites. From our work in the field, soy processors lamented about the bad nature of the roads which often makes the roads difficult to navigate, causing lots of problems to the vehicles. This increases the cost of production because the haulage services charge extra prices for each bag of the soybean - sometime even triple the original price! Most of the processing companies are into the production of the meal while others concentrate on the processing of the oil. The oil is usually sent to the paint industries and soap manufacturers. Another part of the value chain are wholesalers who have huge warehouses. They buy and stock the grains during the peak season and sell it during the lean seasons.

 

The major challenges facing the value chain are the lack of storage facilities, inadequate capital with little help from the financial institutions, and poor road networks.

 

In Ghana, the major consumers of the soy products are the poultry and livestock industry, who purchase the soymeal from processors. The poultry industry is the largest consumer of soymeal. This is due to the fact that soymeal is rich in protein and very good for their birds.

 

The majority of the large poultry farms are located within Kumasi, with a few of them scattered around the country, which makes Kumasi an ideal location for the processing centers. Kumasi is in the middle belt of Ghana, and poultry companies can get their soymeal from the north, which is closer to their markets.

 

Although most poultry farmers purchase from the local processors, they also complain of the quality of soymeal produced in Ghana, citing the fact that the locally produced meal are not of the best quality. This is because mechanically produced meals gives the birds some challenges, and so they prefer to buy imported meal.

 

As students, we believe that the soy industry has the capacity to boost our economy as a country, with its high nutritional benefits to keep us healthy and also as an opportunity to create employment for the youth. The UCC Youthmappers team wishes to express our profound gratitude to Soybean Innovation Lab, our contact persons from Catholic Relief Services and the Geography Department at the University of Cape Coast for giving us the opportunity to be part of this exercise.

 

Images:

Top: YouthMappers students learning about the soybean value chain and KoBo tool before field data collection. 

Bottom: The team in the field with a survey respondent.

 

This blog was written by Bert Manieson, Sabina Abuga and Francis Debrah, students from the University of Cape Coast chapter of YouthMappers. YouthMappers is a consortium of university chapters dedicated to the use of GIS data to better understand issues in regions of extreme poverty where USAID works. The Soy Innovation Lab (SIL) has collaborated with YouthMappers on a student project to generate geographical information systems (GIS) data on the spatial configuration of key installations within the soybean value chain in and around Kumasi, Ghana. This blog post originally appeared on the SIL's Notes from the Field blog on 23 August 2018. 

 

 

 

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