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Ever since the Ethiopia government announced its plan of increasing soya beans farming by 49% for five years beginning in 2015, the appeal of the crop amongst both small scale and large scale farmers across the country has since improved. Ethiopia seeks to do more in the animal feed production sector, and soya beans are a key component in that area.
Soya Beans origin dates back to 3109 years ago in SouthEast Asia with the China farmers reportedly the first people to grow the crop. In the African continent, Tanzania was its initial recipient shortly before it spread to other countries including Ethiopia.
Researchers have established the crop has a lot of nutritional benefits to the body due to the huge oil and protein content contained in its dried seeds.
The uses of soya beans are numerous. It is used to manufacture animal feeds, soy milk, foods from its constituents and is also used to induce nitrogen in the soil through intercropping and improve crop yields.
It is estimated that soya bean production in Ethiopia could jump up-to approximately 120,000 from the current 5,000 metric tons in the near future as more farmers are venturing into its farming. The rapid increase is also attributed to the government’s quest to improve the production of products that are reliant on Soya beans.
Soya bean grain-Whole grain in its raw harvested form
Soya bean Oil-This is usually in its processed form.
Soya Bean Flour-Having had undergone the milling process.
Ethiopia is ideal for the growth of the crop and especially the country’s South and Western regions where it is predominant.
Much like the ideal environmental conditions required in the growing of Ethiopia soya beans the climate conditions in those areas are cool, warm and moist with temperatures not exceeding 10°C. This is a testament to the high-quality yields that Ethiopia boasts of.
Weed is controlled every two weeks starting from the period the seed was planted. Farmers apply the hand-pulling method that involves walking all over the field while systematically pulling out weeds. It also involves cutting of weed with great caution by the use of hand tools such as machetes and knives.
Harvesting and threshing
Harvesting commences as soon as the pods dry up. Farmers use the hand harvesting method whereby they cautiously pluck one pod after the other from the stalk. It is a preferable method because the use of machines causes a lot of wastages and there is a high risk of interfering with the seed coat.
Threshing-Growers put the whole soya bean plant inside jute bags and beat open their pods which are usually already dry with a hard stick.
Farmers prefer this traditional method because it reduces seeds breakages or splits at the end of the exercise thus making them viable not only for commercial purposes but also for planting in the subsequent season.
After threshing farmers blow air through the soya beans in order. This exercise removes any light materials in the grain including chaff, leftover pods, and dust. Another method of cleaning the grains is where one uses a fine mesh screen with holes smaller than the grain so that any waste that is smaller in size is sieved.
Large-scale farmers use a processing plant to clean the grains in bulk whereby they ensure the cleaning machine, surge bins and conveyors are clean to avoid contamination.
Another technique is winnowing. The grains are hurled upwards, and as they fall back any unwanted material-broken seeds, lighter materials and dust are blown away. The only limitation of using this method is because heavy pieces like stones fall back in the grain while some seeds are also blown away. The grains later undergo drying to enhance their durability after storage. Small-scale farmers dry the seeds out in the sun when the humidity is comparatively low while the large-scale ones use the artificial method and ensure the temperature does not exceed 50 degrees Celsius.
It is the final step of processing with the farmers putting the grains in woven plastic bags, cotton cloth bags, and multiwall paper bags. After this stage, the Ethiopia soya beans are transported to the warehouses which are thoroughly cleaned to not only avoid contamination but also assert that the conditions there are right for storage. Moisture level is continuously checked, and it is mandatory it does not exceed 13 degrees Celsius.
The realization of the rewards that come with the production of the crop has attracted the attention of the locals as well as a section of the private sector. More significant and higher quality yields will eventually follow which will make Ethiopia a major surplus of soya beans.