I hope ya’ll remember that nice catchphrase, “Now you’re cookin with gas!” Well, I don’t have the gas, but I am cooking. Today it’s soya beans! Pretty exciting I know. Well, lets start off with my stockpile. I purchased 22kg of raw soya beans from a local farm. They use it as animal feed…go figure…the animals eat it and get fat but people don’t! We’ll change that! For around 4,000kwa per kg, at an exchange of 5,108 kwatcha/dollar on the market as of today, that’s about 78 cents per kg (not terrible on an allowance of 12 bucks a day). I keep it, as I keep all things in my house, suspended. I have this tick that I’ve only recently developed upon entering mud/brick huts with thatch roofs, and thin, unsealed cement flooring. Nothing on the floor in my house! (excluding my 20ltr jerry cans, my 50ltr water reservoir, and my bed frame’s legs).

Anyway, 1 litre of soya beans (I know I’m mixing volume and weight… sorry), soya beans sink until heated, so let’s go with a density of around, but greater than 1. Since pure water has a density of 1, and 1L of pure water = 1kg, I’m gonna say 1L of soya beans is close to 1kg…. again, I know volume and weight are totally different, and that without calculating the density and then using that to calculate the number of soya beans in a volume of 1 L, and then finding its respective weight, or putting it on a scale because I’m lazy and don’t have a calculator, or the density of a soya bean…I can’t make the conversion and hope for a 100% accurate reading… but come on now people, I’m in the African bush…I have a sack full of soya beans… really, 1L of something that sinks in water is close to 1kg… right? Right.

Oh, while I’m sidetracked, did I mention that in a metric country – where everything is in metric measurements…they sell beans and grain, even ifishimu (caterpillars) using gallons. That’s right, sold by volume using a different measurement system with approximated weight (even though you can’t calculate weight from volume alone). Tell me how much fun that is to figure out….

Where was I? Oh right, sidetracked. Ha. Okay, so around 1kg of soya, cleaned (without water) and removed from their furry shells and added to water kept at a rolling boil for 45 minutes to 1 hour, then I drain the water, and set them outside on my dishes drying rack, on a black chunk of plastic in the hot rainy season sun to dry, once dried I’ll either roast them, mash them and make soy milk and soya patties, or I’ll mix them with ground nuts and make more nutritious fantastic soya meal. I’m also planting an area of around 15m by 15m of soya (45’x45′) – at 1 bean per 4cm. Come April I should have a reasonable crop for use and have a demo plot for my community to see, it will also allow me to recoup my initial investment, and give me stock for use in cooking demonstrations without needing to purchase more. It also gives me a chance to explain soya’s benefit to health, nutrition, and soil fertility! Woot!

Now 22kg is a lot of soya beans, and for one person’s dietary needs and planting desires (I’m not a farmer after all!) it’s quite a bit. So I’ve started doing seed loans. I identify individual farmers that have capacity and have expressed a concern and interest in improving their family’s nutrition and well being. Then I’ve asked those farmers to meet with me, and given then 500ml of soya beans, ready for planting, with a written document (hand written and signed with a witness), noting that they will return to me, barring a natural incident (goats eat the crop, the crop fails, some flood or pest eats the crop) my initial 500ml of soya beans. I make no profit, and with a growing season of approximately 4 months, I’ll recoup my soya loans in mid-April. Knowing the farmers personally, and having the agreement in writing, I know I won’t be cheated, and that the seeds will be planted (I’ll be doing monitoring). That’s the benefit of living in the community.

Someone who has the density of a soya bean, can you calculate the rough number of soya beans in 500ml of seed, and then give me the rough harvest (estimates are good) from a single plant? Then send it to me? I can use that to track the impact this seed loaning is having on my community, and can then account for how much of the crop is coming to a harvest. It’ll give me some good metrics on the effect of my little program, and allow me to better understand the yield from my test plots, and give information during trainings of how much land is needed to produce enough food, that can be stored for a family of five to consume throughout the year, at a rate of 100g per member, per day. Sounds fun huh?

So, while I’m sitting here, snacking on my dried then roasted soya beans, imagining myself in some high class sushi restaurant, and writing about the food that makes up a large and very important part of my diet, I can’t help but smile, content and excited, improving my level of comfort, while planning and preparing for trainings and community improvements that will benefit the people of my community, and possibly save the lives of malnourished children and adults in my new home….every day. I can’t think of a more rewarding way to spend an afternoon!