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SARAI Soy Value-Chain Project Sows Opportunity in Afghanistan

Over the course of the three-year project, it is envisioned that SARAI will reach over 400,000 people and support four key objectives of the soy value chain – from farm to fork.

These four objectives include:

  1. To increase the production capacity of targeted farmers through renovated irrigation systems, access to microfinance and technical support and training.
  2. To increase farmer access to markets through road rehabilitation
  3. To increase capacity to process and sell locally produced crops, contributing to the creation of sustainable business opportunities
  4. To improve the nutritional knowledge and status of targeted community leaders, health sector workers, food processors, vulnerable individuals and end users.

Joining WISHH on the SARAI project include Shelter for Life (SFL), PARSA, SALT International and CBI Global.

Download complete brochure detailing the SARAI Project

Road and Irrigation Construction

One of the most unique aspects of the SARAI project is the focus on construction and irrigation projects as critical components to establishing the soy value chain.  In their initial condition, many Afghan rural roads act as a natural barrier in promoting market development. Working closely with selected communities and local governments, 51 .47 km (31.98 miles) of roads have been rehabilitated.

Equally significant are the five irrigation systems in Takhar and Baghlan provinces which are being renovated.  This will enable farmers, many for the first time in recent memory, to plant a rotational cash crop such as soybeans. 

Road construction in Afghanistan (Photo: SFL)Road construction (Photo: SFL)
Road construction complete in Afghanistan (Photo: SFL)Completed road (Photo: SFL)
Creating irrigation channels in AfghanistanLocal workers creating irrigation channels (Photo: SFL)
Completed irrigation ditches in AfghanistanCompleted irrigation system (Photo: SFL)

Soy Production

Training and technical support in the introduction of a new crop are important steps in order to sustainability create long-term demand of soybeans in Afghanistan.  Implemented by Shelter for Life with technical advice provided by ASA/WISHH, the SARAI program will provide training to 9,000 farmers.  Technical training topics include seed selection, soil quality, moisture needs, fertilization, planting/cultivating, harvesting, cleaning and storage. 

Afghan farmers plowingLand preparation with oxen (Photo: SFL)
Afghan woman planting soybean seedsPlanting soybean seeds by hand (Photo: SFL)
Afghan soybean crop mid-seasonSoybean crop at mid-season (Photo: SFL)
Afghan farmers harvesting soybeansHarvesting soybeans by hand (Photo: SFL)
Afghan farmers threshing soybeans by handFarmers threshing soybeans by hand with sticks and pitchforks (Photo: SFL)

Microfinance Loans

Implemented by Shelter for Life, this activity involves the provision of small scale loans to 600 farming families, with the understanding that farmers may require additional capital to take full advantage of their participation in the soy production activities of the SARAI program. The loan size will vary based on the client’s individual circumstances but are estimated to be around $400 USD. The loans can be used for agricultural inputs and income generating trades that compliment food production and marketing.

Microfinance loan recipient selection and training (Photo: SFL)Microfinance loan recipient selection and training (Photo: SFL)
Afghan woman with microfinance loan proceeds Afghan woman with microfinance loan proceeds (Photo: SFL)

Soy Distribution

Understanding the ongoing humanitarian operations in Afghanistan will continue to play a significant role in the nutrition and health communities, as well as the market for soy proteins in Afghanistan in foreseeable future.  The SARAI project has developed a set of interventions designed to address the nutritional status of vulnerable groups by working closely with Afghan government ministries.

Delivering soy flour for distribution (Photo: PARSA)Delivering soy flour for distribution (Photo: PARSA)
Donkeys transporting soy flour to remote areas in Badakshan province (Photo: PARSA)Donkeys transporting soy flour to remote areas in Badakshan province (Photo: PARSA)

Technical Assistance and Demand Creation

Activities In order to assist in the development of a market for soy proteins and products in Afghanistan, ASA/WISHH will provide market development support through specialized technical assistance visits to food and feed manufacturers. A more general soy information and awareness campaign will target Afghan consumers.

WISHH Consultant, Dr. Clyde Stauffer, visits an Afghan Bakery (Photo: ASA/WISHH)ASA/WISHH Consultant, Dr. Clyde Stauffer, visits an Afghan Bakery to demonstrate using low fat soy flour in bread (Photo: ASA/WISHH)
Dairy cattle at the soybean meal feeding trial (Photo: ASA/WISHH)Dairy cattle at the soybean meal feeding trial (Photo: ASA/WISHH)

Soy Processing Factory

Perhaps the most comprehensive component of the SARAI project is the construction of a soy processing facility.  The facility is a significant and permanent contribution to the effort to rebuild the Afghan manufacturing base.  Constructed and implemented by SALT International, in close cooperation with an Afghan corporate business partner the Naseeb Group, the soy processing facility was commissioned in 2011.  Located in Mazar-e-Sharif, the plant employs 14 Afghans full-time and is able to produce soybean meal for animal feed, soy flour for human consumption and crude de-gummed soybean oil that can be further refined into edible oil.

The Naseeb Group also plays a critical function in creating demand for soy in Afghanistan through writing production contracts to local farmers for harvested soybeans, thus ensuring a “built-in” price guarantee and incentive for farmers participation in the soy production component of SARAI.

Rasoul Naseeb, Naseeb Group; Quintin Gray, Minister Counselor, USDA/FAS; Jim Hershey, WISHH  Executive Director,  and USDA Representative, Steve Berk visit the Afghan Soy FactoryRasoul Naseeb, Naseeb Group; Quintin Gray, Minister Counselor, USDA/FAS; Jim Hershey, WISHH Executive Director, and USDA Representative, Steve Berk visit the Afghan Soy Factory
Afghan Soy Factory equipment (Photo: SALT)Afghan Soy Factory equipment (Photo: SALT)

Comments by Army Colonel Doug Rose

WISHH’s work in Afghanistan has taken root through the U.S. Department of Agriculture-funded Soybeans for Agricultural Renewal In Afghanistan Initiative (SARAI). View U.S. Army Colonel Doug Rose, a Missouri soybean farmer on tour of duty in Afghanistan, describe the value of SARAI, how he worked with WISHH and what it’s like to farm in Afghanistan.

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