Selling the soy idea

  The diets of Tanzanian children, like many in the developing world, are sorely lacking in protein and essential amino acids. The deficiencies affect everything –  from growth to learning. Dr. Neeta Singh of UIW, in partnership with WGC, has made it a main mission to try and change that here in the Kagera region.  That’s why she is always looking for opportunities to champion the idea of adding soy to Tanzanian diets. Soy is a complete protein because it contains all the essential amino acids needed for human growth.

During this trip, Neeta has been working with the Hekima Girls Secondary School conducting health profiles of students to ascertain any needs for improved nutrition. There may be more connections to be had, she believes, between Hekima and the WGC-supported Bukoba Women’s Empowerment Association (BUWEA), which runs a farming and milling cooperative centering on soybeans, soy flour and soy milk. BUWEA sells its products around the region, benefitting its 580 members living in some of the area’s poorest villages.

So when Neeta and Elaine happened to strike up a conversation the other day with a German man in the Bukoba town bank, it’s no surprise that it ended in yet another potential connection on the soy front. Today, with BUWEA leaders Regina and Jesca, we visited the German man – Ralf Wasner – at the orphanage and school he now helps run in Tanzania as an administrator and accountant.

He showed us around and we met Headmaster Emmanuel Tibaija, who invited us to return in a few days with samples of the soy products – a soy muffin, soy yogurt, soy milk – that their Kemundo Children’s Home and School might consider using to help supplement students’ and children’s diets. 

The campus began in 1990 as an orphanage sponsored by Nehemiah Gateway, an international non-profit headquartered in Germany. In 2000, the primary school was built and now serves a mix of the orphans, local day schoolers, and area boarders – all totaling 474 students. It’s truly an amazing place: it includes 17 houses where designated employee “mums and dads” live with the children who have been orphaned. Overall, the operation supports children ranging from age 3 to 25. We are so excited about the possibility of seeing the idea of improving kids’ nutrition through soy in schools gaining steam here!

After the visit, we had a chance to visit the teeming Kemundo market to see some of the BUWEA members who run home based agricultural businesses. By the time we arrived, they had almost sold out of all their (huge!) avocados, sugar cane, and sweet potatoes!

Now, we are eagerly awaiting the arrival by bus today of friend Rose Wamalwa, from Kenya. She directs a grassroots women and water network called WE-CAN near Kisumu, Kenya, and she is in talks with WGC about collaborating and hosting WGC immersion trips. She is also a regional coordinator for the rock star organization known as The Global Women’s Water Initiative, which has helped train BUWEA members on how to construct rainwater harvesters and how to maintain sanitation in their local communities. We first met Rose face-to-face when she came to San Antonio as part of a national program that placed her as an ambassador intern with the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance. We cannot wait to see her again and talk about even more potential connections!

Rose Wamalwa, Photo courtesy GWWI


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