The American Soybean Association’s World Initiative for Soy in Human Health Program (ASA/WISHH) used USDA Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development funds to work with an inspired 2014 participant of the USDA Borlaug International Agricultural Science and Technology Fellowship Program. The collaboration supports commercial strategies for the use of soy flour in a West African staple food, gari, eaten by millions of people. The addition of soy to a food consumed so widely in Africa opens opportunities for trade in U.S. soy to countries that are currently deficient in raw materials. USDA funding aligns with WISHH’s efforts to improve access to affordable protein.
In 2021 peer-reviewed research published in Scientific African Journal, Borlaug Fellow Leticia Amoakoah Twum and her Ghanaian co-researchers state that adding soy flour to gari, “has huge potential to reduce iron deficiency anemia and protein-energy malnutrition among gari consumers in Africa.” Traditional gari is made from cassava; it is high in carbohydrates and low in protein. The Ghanaian research shows that an iron-fortified soy flour-gari blend not only produces a greater yield for consumption, but it also provides an increased nutritional value that traditional gari lacks. Consumers also like the slightly nutty taste of the soy flour gari.
FAS introduced Amoakoah Twum to WISHH’s Regional Director Josh Neiderman who personally delivered U.S. soy flour to the research team. WISHH used USDA MAP funds in 2016 to sponsor her participation in the “gari revolution” workshop in Nigeria. These discussions helped the Borlaug alumna understand the variability in the production and consumption of gari along the West African coast.
With USDA FMD 2020 funds, WISHH supported her distance-learning participation in a virtual Texas A&M training course on soybean extrusion that offered important knowledge for commercial-scale production.
Amoakoah Twum and WISHH see the research as an important cornerstone for the commercial opportunities for trade in soy-gari. “With the emergence of COVID-19, people have become even more aware of the need to eat healthy,” she says. “Based on our market survey research, most Ghanaians would prefer purchasing and consuming micronutrient-fortified soy-gari blend if the prices are reasonable. The soy-gari product also creates export opportunities that can enhance trade too. I can confidently say that this innovation has significant commercial prospects for cassava famers, soybean suppliers, gari processors and distributors.”