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Soybeans in Africa
Understandably, when a research team receives big news from an agency like the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), much celebration and congratulation ensues. This story played out late last semester when a consortium led by ACES was awarded a $25 million federal grant to establish sustainable production and utilization of the soybean in Africa. Writing a successful proposal that includes such a huge scope of work is an accomplishment in itself.
Twice recently, I have had the opportunity to talk with Dr. Peter Goldsmith, an agricultural economist who is leading this project referred to in short as the Soybean Innovation Lab (SIL). We spoke once shortly after the project was awarded and again after his team returned from their first official project trip.
After getting the news, Goldsmith was thrilled, obviously. In addition to praising his team and their qualifications, he credited the many people in ACES history before him who put in hours and years that led up to this new project.
During our second more recent meeting, I found his level of excitement for the project to be even higher. He and his team had just returned from Sub-Sahara Africa where they met their African partners and assessed the current situation for the soybean.
No doubt, he said, the work will be challenging because soy is unlike other crops grown in Africa. He left Africa extremely optimistic, however, because he saw firsthand that what is needed there is exactly what was proposed, and further he was able to confirm that the project directors support his team in answering the necessary fundamental questions first.
So, during the next five years, the SIL team will answer questions like what is the ideal planting depth, row widths, fertilizer level etc. in Africa. They will then get this information to the people and organizations who support Africa’s farmers with the end goal of using the soybean as an economic engine to reduce poverty.
I look forward to following their progress and sharing their stories.
Read my most recent interview with Dr. Goldsmith here: http://intlprograms.aces.illinois.edu/soybean_launch