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How soybeans could change lives for the better in India

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In Madhya Pradesh, India, malnutrition and an unhealthy diet are common. Suresh Motwani works at NGO Solidaridad Network Asia. He cooperates in a partnership to tackle malnutrition while giving small-scale farmers access to a higher income. He tells us how the partnership does this through an SDGP project.

Why Madhya Pradesh?

"With the largest soy production in the country, Madhya Pradesh is known as the soy bowl of India. Farmers grow vegetables on a large scale in this area. And yet, malnutrition and an unhealthy diet are common here. This is partly because foods rich in protein, like soy, are traditionally animal feed. There is also a lack of awareness about properly preparing soy and vegetables. We need to do something about this, as the nutrients in these ingredients are crucial to any diet."

What do you want to achieve with this project?

"We are trying to increase the intake of healthy food and provide farmers with access to a higher income. To do this, we organise workshops and spread knowledge on how to grow soybeans and greens. We target these workshops at farmers. Another goal of the project is to teach the community how to properly prepare soybeans and vegetables as healthy meals. We work towards this goal through cooking workshops, for example."

How can farmers improve their income?

"Not all the soybeans the participants grow are for their own consumption. In this project, soybean processor Vippy teaches farmers how to bring a portion of their soybean harvest to the local market. This way, they can increase their income.

East West Seeds India provides the participants with the seeds necessary to grow vegetables. The project partners also support farmers in intercropping: growing both soy and vegetables. The project pays special attention to women and children. It provides kitchen gardens where women learn how to grow and prepare vegetables. In cooperation with women's groups, they then prepare healthy lunches for local schools."

Who is involved in this project?

"Solidaridad Network Asia works together with:

  • Farmers cooperation Smarth Kisan;
  • Seed producer East West Seeds India;
  • The Indian government programme: Madhya Pradesh State Rural Livelihoods Mission; and
  • Soybean processor Vippy."

Do the participants get money from the involved parties?

"No. The goal is to help the participants become more independent in growing, preparing and selling soybeans and vegetables. The project addresses 3 topics: the availability of crops, their affordability, and information about healthy eating."

What are the results of the project so far?

"The project is on schedule. In 5 different districts of Madhya Pradesh, the project has reached 15,000 families. The goal is to reach 50,000 by 2024. Around 1,300 farmers have received training. And more than 1,390 women have followed training sessions in the kitchen gardens. Farmers participating in the project are already seeing an increase in yield per square meter of agricultural land."

What has the biggest challenge been so far?

"Permanently changing the mindset of the community about healthy food. This cannot be achieved in 3 or 4 years. It is really about the longer term. It is very important that all the partners within the project commit to the project's long-term goals. In this respect, the project greatly benefitted from the support of the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO). RVO has been very helpful in keeping all parties motivated, finding common goals and looking for future opportunities to upscale the project."

How else has RVO helped?

"The project would not have been possible without the help of RVO. The partners worked in different areas and were not often in contact with each other. That only came with the help of RVO. Now, all parties are in contact with each other: from women's groups to soy processing companies and government departments to schools. The project also receives financial support through the Sustainable Development Goals Partnership. This facility is for projects focusing on sustainable solutions for people in developing countries."

SDG Partnership facility

The SDG Partnership facility (SDGP) helps to achieve the following sustainable development goals in developing countries:

  • SDG 2: ending hunger
  • SDG 8: decent jobs and economic growth
  • SDG 17: partnerships for the goals.

To reach these goals, it is necessary to work together. That is why SDGP works with public-private partnerships (PPPs) between government, businesses, NGOs and knowledge centres. Find out more about SDGP.

For more about this project, visit our Project Database.

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