Growing soybeans; Growing futures

Dr. Lyford looking at statistics of his research. Texas Tech University takes pride in doing research internationally to advance agricultural practices in other countries.

Ghana’s poverty and hunger have declined steadily over the last 20 years thanks, mostly, to improved agricultural extension services and improved market access. Researchers in Texas Tech University’s College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources were working to understand the financial benefits of producing soybeans in Africa.

In Ghana, research plots of soybeans were planted to monitor the changes in yield and income for local farmers.

The goal of the research was to evaluate the effect of improved agricultural extension services and improved market access opportunities on productivity level, food security, nutrition status and income levels among smallholder farmers, according to research by Conrad Lyford, Texas Tech agricultural and applied economics professor.

The research took place for a year. At the end of the study, farmers showed interest in continuing to grow soybeans. In the year after, soybean production expanded in almost all targeted communities, according to Esri.

“There’s a lot of inequities in production agriculture in Africa,” Lyford said.

“Typically, most of the farmers are actually women. However, women have a lot less access to credit, quality land, informational resources, and other inputs to be successful in farming. Soybeans were considered at the time to be a ‘woman’s crop’.”

In Ghana, soybeans are put into food for an additional source of protein. Soybeans have appealing nutritional characteristics and looked like they would be profitable, Lyford said. The producers could benefit financially from the crop with the right tools, which they did not currently have access to.

Lyford said the scale of Ghana’s production agriculture differs from the United States, especially when it comes to equipment. Ghana farmers harvest everything by hand, whereas U.S. farmers utilize a wide range of machinery to farm a higher number of acreage.

However, the two countries do share some agricultural commonalities. One way production is like the United States is the mindset, he said. The Ghana farmers are doing a job to benefit the community and their families.

“The big similarity,” Lyford said, “is they’re just growing crops for a source of income and food.”

Lyford said Ghana has a more agriculturally-based economy. A big engine for growth in Ghana is production agriculture, and it is something that can be improved for the better, he said.

Throughout Lyford’s study, yields were substantially increased for most farmers who participated.

As of today, most of the farmers who participated in the study are now producing on their own.

“The ones I talked to were very happy to have done it. They were proud to be involved and pleased with the outcomes.

Dr. Lyford

“Some of the other farmers in different regions and communities are now starting to produce soybeans,” Lyford said.  

Lyford said men and women from the farming communities participated in the study.

“The focus was primarily on women,” Lyford said, “70% of the recipients were women; however, we did have men that were involved as well.”

Women farmers are key contributors to agriculture production, marketing and intrahousehold food distribution.

Available evidence shows food security and overall national growth and development of any economy could be improved if smallholders, particularly women smallholders, are supported, according to Esri.  

The study’s objectives for the research were to determine the current situation with soybean productivity level, food security and nutrition status, he said. Then, they would evaluate the effect of the improved situation and the impact on female smallholders.

In Ghana, soybeans are used for farm families who are extremely poor. Soybeans can provide protein for malnourished children.

Lyford’s project aimed to help aid farmers in Ghana with agricultural opportunities. Lyford said he and his team saw significant increases in yield, especially in Sankpala and Chiranda. In the other three areas of research, they found the yields were lower than before the implementation of the study. However, the end of the assessment showed unpredictable climate was the main cause of lower yields, Lyford said.

In regard to income, all areas showed an increase in income for the farmers. The objectives of the study were achieved by identifying new market locations, training smallholders in market dynamics, and linking farmers to agricultural commodity marketing platforms, according to Esri. 

During the research, gender inequality was also a factor. On a national level, there has been improvement with inequality for women. However, some parts of Ghana still struggle with this issue, he said. One example of the inequality women face is receiving lower quality land.

In Ghana, men usually have the power over decision making with resources, education, and training, according to Esri. This was one of the main reasons the study focused in on aiding women he said. 

For the most part, the farmers who were a part of the study were grateful for the experience.

“The ones I talked to where very happy to have done it.” Lyford said. “They were proud to be involved and pleased with the outcomes. At the end, they took over ownership of producing the soybeans. They were very motivated to get the job done. Farmers were now thinking about how to be more productive, and how to overcome constraints they faced the year before.”