The soybean yield has been significant in eastern Nangarhar province over the past three years, growers and officials said on Wednesday, hoping the crop could be a substitute for illicit poppies.
A farmer from Behsud district, Niamatullah, told Pajhwok Afghan News farmers could reap good profits from soybean that could be a viable alternative to poppies. He urged farmers to switch to soybean cultivation.
He asked the provincial authorities to promote soybean cultivation in Nangarhar and set up model plots in opium-producing areas. “If we take care of this crop, half an acre can earn us up to 30,000 afs ($570),” he reckoned.
Naeem Jan, another grower from Lalpura district, also expressed satisfaction with his income from soybean cultivation. He egged on other farmers to start growing the crop and thereby enhance their legal income.
On the other hand, Agriculture Director Eng. Mohammad Hussain Sapi said a private firm called Sahami had agreed to invest $370,000 for processing soybean in the province. The investor will take steps to popularise soybean cultivation.
Native to tropical and warm temperate regions of Asia, soybean has been cultivated as a principal crop for at least 5,000 years. It has over 2,500 varieties, producing beans of different sizes, shapes and colours.
As a crop, the director said, soybeans were high in yield and easy to harvest; they grow well wherever corn is cultivated. It can be used in a multitude of forms -- soy sauce, soybean meal, vegetable oil, bean curd, fermented soybean paste, soy milk and as a coffee substitute.
The green crop is also used for forage and hay, and the cake as stock feed and fertiliser. Soybean oil is used commercially in the manufacture of glycerin, paints, soaps, rubber substitutes, plastics, printing ink and other products.
Sapi said: “Half an acre of land needs 10 kilograms of seed, which can yield more than 700 kilograms of soybean. One kilogram of soybean is worth 40 afs. So this plant can be a substitute for the illicit poppy crop.”
He believed a farmer could not earn 15,000 afs from half an acre of poppies, but the same area could produce soybean worth 30,000 to 40,000 afs. If soybean cultivation increased in Nangarhar, he promised, a profitable market would be found.
The director said the crop was currently cultivated in Surkhrod, Behsud, Khewa, Batikot, Ghanikhel, Momand Dara, Kama, Dara-i-Noor, Kot, Goshta, Lalpura, Achin and Rodat districts.
Agriculturist Karimullah Tarakai pointed to soybean’s nutritional value, saying the crop contained multiple vitamins, including 35percent protein, 14 percent calcium and 20 percent edible oil. The plant also benefits soil by giving it nitrogen.
Soybean use is also beneficial for those suffering from malnutrition, according to the expert, who said the crop’s maturity period was 75-90 days.
Abdul Salam Hilali, an official of Nutrition and Education International (NEI), said 742 acres of land had been brought under soybean cultivation in the eastern zone. As many as 1,917 farmers in the zone have been trained on growing soybean.
“We have cultivated soybean on 498 acres in Nangarhar, 163.5 acres in Laghman and 84.5 acres in Kunar,” Hilali said, adding the crop had been grown in 12 eastern districts, including a dozen in Nangarhar.
Ahmad Lamqani, in charge of the Ahmad Soybean, told Pajhwok they had installed a capital-intensive soybean-processing system in Nangarhar. “In 2011, soybean production was around 11 tonnes but the yield rose to 40 tonnes in 2013.”