Sunday, April 4, 2010

CLUSA, Soy Milk, and a Second Helping of Moz

Apparently, even after three months in Mozambique, I still haven't caused enough damage to warrant kicking me out of the country. Back in Maputo after South Africa, I spent St. Patty's Day night at a restaurant/pub catching up with a lot of friends until late late. It was a coincidental going away party, since I probably won't be circling down to Maputo again. The next day I boarded a plane for Nampula, where I spent about a month in December/January doing my chicken research.

I'm a big fan of flying, at least anything less than 8 hours. It usually means the beginning of a new chapter of my life - however short it is - and that's always exciting. It might be a new semester at college, a job interview in Chicago, a weekend at Gasparilla in Tampa with all my high school friends, or, more recently, a new country on my travels. In this case I was flying to Nampula to start a 2-month consultancy position until mid-May.

Normally, I wouldn't be choosing to stay in a country for another two months after already being there for three. On my fellowship I've tried to keep my time in each country to about two months. But this project is way too cool and the organization I'm working for is covering my costs, so it was a no-brainer. For the next month and a half with CLUSA (Cooperative League of the USA), I'll be doing a feasibility study on the potential for soy food businesses in the Nampula area, and whether or not CLUSA should provide assistance and funding to emerging soy food businesses. This is actually very connected to my work with TechnoServe, when I was looking at how soybean farmers have benefited from the emerging poultry industry. In the map overlay that I did for my poultry project, you can see the various soybean projects by CLUSA and TechnoServe in light and dark blue, with their magnitude according to the circle size (red is poultry producers).

Why look into the possibility of starting soy-based food businesses? Here's a few reasons:

  1. All milk products and wheat flour (Mozambicans love bread) are imported here
  2. The byproduct of producing soy milk is okara, which can be used to make breads in proportions up to 20%
  3. Locally-produced soy flour is much cheaper than wheat flour and soy milk would likely be cheaper than imported cow's milk (the key is to get the taste right)
  4. And, of course, soy is extremely nutritious, which is good for a country where 41% of children under 5 have moderate chronic and severe malnutrition
These are just some of the reasons, but needless to say, there are huge obstacles, such as the high startup capital needed to produce milk. To sort out whether these obstacles outweigh the potential, I'm doing things like meeting with potential entrepreneurs to develop their business models, pricing production machinery from South Africa, India, China, and elsewhere, and talking with street kids who sell fried doughnuts to learn about how they operate their "businesses". It's a pretty broad scope. Hopefully by the end of it I'll be able to determine the potential, but I'll certainly be able to tell you everything you might need to know about soy foods, which I know you're dying to know.

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