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Current status and future prospects

Soyabean has become established as a smallholder crop in Zimbabwe. Whereas in the 1990s soyabean was grown on small plots in just a few rural areas, it is now widespread throughout the higher rainfall areas of Zimbabwe. Detailed surveys that quantify soyabean production in the smallholder sector and its contribution to rural livelihoods are lacking. Given that at least 10,000 farmers were growing soyabean in 2001, a conservative estimate would be tens of thousands, and the true number could be well over 100,000 farmers. A significant statistic is the fact that smallholders contributed only 415 tonnes to the formal soyabean market in 1995, just one year prior to the promotion, but this leaped to 10,900 tonnes by 2001 (Ministry of Lands and Agriculture, 2001). Estimated mean yields per hectare also increased from 495 to 1,014kg ha21 over the same period. This success owes much to the commitment of the SPTF to championing the production of soyabean in the smallholder farming sector. Given the collapse of the commercial farming

sector in Zimbabwe and themassive demand for soyabean for the national food and animal feed market (current processing capacity in Harare is estimated to be around 400,000t year21) there is an insatiable demand for the crop. Yet the total national production in the past season was estimated at only 20-30,000 tonnes due to collapse of the commercial farming sector and the problems smallholders face in marketing. Soyabean is a particularly valuable crop because of the multiple products – for food, vegetable oil and animal feed – obtained from the grain. Much of the pressed soy cake is used in the rapidly expanding chicken and pig industries. As Zimbabwe is a landlocked country, the costs of importation make local

production economically competitive. A further potential market opportunity for Zimbabwe and other countries of southern Africa (excepting South Africa) is that all soyabean varieties used are from classical breeding programmes and can thus be marketed as free of genetic modification. All these factors indicate that there is a great potential for expansion of soyabean production in the smallholder sector. A new initiative entitled ‘Putting Nitrogen Fixation

to Work for Smallholder Farmers in Africa’ (www. N2Africa.org) aims to replicate this success in eight countries of sub-Saharan Africa. This project aims to assist smallholder farmers to access the best available technologies for production of the major grain legumes – not only soyabean – so that the benefits from symbiotic nitrogen fixation can help to build profitable and sustainable futures for smallholder farmers.