The Republic of Benin is set to receive agribusiness incubation support through the establishment of a mini incubator. This was ascertained during a joint training session organized by the African Agribusiness Incubation Network/Universities Business and Research in Agricultural Innovation Programme (AAIN/UniBRAIN) and the Platform for African European Partnership for Agricultural Research for Development (PAEPARD)
team of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) to support milk processing from soya beans.
The training held between 8th and 9th December, 2015 discussed how to transform the Benin women’s soy-bean processors’ association to a small and medium enterprise (SME) informed by the UniBRAIN business model and an adapted association’s business plan.
The mini incubator will be a consortia model comprising Sojagnon a Benin based non-governmental organization, Zogbodomey farmers association, INRAB research institute, and University du Benin. The facility will help soya bean processors, businessmen and actors across the soya bean value chain and students to improve incomes, innovations and research and will be managed by Zogbodomey farmers association being a part of Agri-business Incubation Programme under AAIN/UNIBRAIN and PAEPARD innovation platforms.
Prior to the creation of the Woman processors’ Association, farmers of Zogbodomey a community in the Zou department of southern Benin started growing soybean as an alternative to cotton in 2000. The initiative was supported by the local producers’ organization called the UCP (L’Union communale des producteurs de Zogbodomey). The UCP not only supported the farmers technically, they also arranged for proper seed and engaged in finding market outlets for the produce. In addition, the UCP organized an initial training on soybean processing techniques to diversify soybean products and make milk, cheese, brochettes, and biscuits and also supported the set-up of women soybean processors association. Together with the UCP and soybean processor village groups, (GVPS) the heart of an agribusiness cluster was formed with the help of the IFDC through its project called 2SCALE.
Asked what other benefits members of the women’s association enjoy through the PAEPARD support, Mrs Isabelle pictured left said that they have been trained on how to process good quality milk that was more preferred by the customer than the one processed by those who hadn’t gone through training. The potential for job creation was high especially when the value chain approach is employed.
The objective of this FARA/PAEPARD-supported consortium is to increase the food security by enhancing the productivity of soybean farming and the quality of soybean derived products (milk and afitin). PAEPARD’S four main activities to SOJAGNON-NGO include: drafting an inventory of existing soybean processing technologies; assessing and documenting the nutritional value, safety and microbial composition, consumer preference of Soya Milk and Soy Afitin. Others include developing and adapting Soya Milk and Soy Afitin processing technologies and improving the technologies, skills and knowledge and disseminating it to the consortium members and stakeholders. The Agribusiness Incubator Hub will empower the women in Benin through the Soy-milk Afitin production and make them enjoy the benefits of other UniBRAIN incubators in Africa.
On the other hand, the role of research in technologies and innovations was evident at INRAB research institute where a technology aimed at assisting Zogbodomey soya milk processors stabilize their milk and increase its shelf life without necessarily using sophisticated equipment was developed. The technology has been adapted to be used by the rural women in their natural environment and its complimentary role between the processors and researchers was demonstrated by the solutions being offered. Speaking during the visit, the head of programmes of INRAB Prof. Paul Houssou indicated that they we very keen to have home grown technology and innovations that would help solve real problems identified within their communities. He mentioned that the soya milk processors challenge of stabilizing the milk was one such problem and they were proud to provide homegrown solutions.
In the consortium arrangement, it emerged that the university had a role where students in the department of food science were engaged to develop afitin, food tasters/spices and other value added products from the soya bean. In this approach, three students had so far been engaged and one of the results mentioned by Dr Yann was the development of a technology for the fermentation of soya milk to process afitin. He indicated that the technology was much more efficient in terms of energy use and turnaround time making it very viable for use by farmers. One of the students, Mr. Christin gave an analysis that was critical to the private sector where he drew an analogy of varieties of soya bean and climbing bean that had better flavor and could produce a higher quality of afitin.
Upon discussions, Mr Ariho the FARA UniBRAIN/AAIN coordinator noted with appreciation the roles played by research and university and particularly their connection to the market and consumer concerns. He encouraged the students to use their research results to start their own businesses and become job creators. However, noting the little involvement of private sector, implored upon the researchers and university to ensure the involvement of private sector in order for research to respond to the market needs. He encouraged the university to involve the private sector who are potential off takers of the technologies that they were developing.
Dr Mugabe the PAEPARD co-manager lauded the effort made by the university students in coming up with the technologies and innovations that were solving problems for the community. He encouraged the consortium members to engage more with the farmers and processors to provide more advice on food handling that would make the farmers more equipped with information with regards to processes in processing.
It is worth noting that the UNIBRAIN programme has facilitated and funded the creation and establishment of incubator consortia in five countries viz: Ghana, Mali, Zambia, Uganda and Kenya while the consortia have developed and established six incubators as follows:
After UniBRAIN closes on 31st March 2016, AAIN will take forward the process of technically backstopping this incubator hub.