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Schaller's Foell finds opportunity for Iowa to help feed Africa

Thursday, October 30, 2008

During a recent trip to Africa, Iowa soybean leader Laura Foell saw firsthand the opportunity that has sparked the interest of businesses and governments around the world. Africa's 900 million consumers represent an important long-term marketplace for many products, including U.S. soy. In addition, Foell also saw how women can play a major role in achieving business growth as well as improving diets in Africa.

Foell of Schaller serves as a director to the United Soybean Board and was part of a soybean grower delegation to Africa in August. The U.S. Soy Export Council supported the trip with checkoff funds to help grow demand and create new markets.

Foell reports that soy's benefits make it particularly appealing in Africa, where leaders are working to improve diets by increasing protein consumption.

"This was an eye-opening trip that made me thankful for what I have, but was also enlightening regarding how we as soybean farmers can make a difference in the lives of people in areas such as Africa," says Foell. "Africa is a protein deficit area. Soy is a complete protein source that can help meet the needs of the people."

The Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) has already helped forge new partnerships in Africa for soybean growers through its support of the World Initiative for Soy in Human Health (WISHH) program.

Roy Bardole of Rippey, Iowa, serves as vice chair of WISHH as well as the World Soy Foundation. WISHH has worked in 23 countries to create sustainable solutions for the protein demands of people in developing countries through the introduction and use of U.S. soy products.

The two-week trip in which Foell participated covered many miles across southern Africa, including areas where many are lucky to get a single full meal a day and any increase in income is normally spent on food. The soybean leaders met with entrepreneurs, such as a flour miller who is introducing high-protein soy foods to bakers. They also participated in a soyfoods seminar that attracted many representatives of the food industry. In addition, the delegation visited a WISHH project that provides U.S. textured soy protein to women who have created sales marketing teams offering food and other products to rural villages.

According to the U.S. Agency for International Development, more than 800 million women are economically active worldwide, undertaking critical roles in commerce.

"We worked to develop a platform connecting the commitment of women in agriculture to the growth and the global improvement of not only agriculture and business, but the world," Foell says.

Foell also met a South African soyfoods processor who is an example of an entrepreneur tapping into consumer demand for more protein while also strengthening his own workforce. This businessman provides soyfoods to employees with HIV/AIDS, who may need up to 50 percent more protein. Better diets with increased protein can help people living with HIV/AIDS to have the strength to stay on the job and/or continue to care for their families.

"Several women with HIV/AIDS who receive soy in their diet told us they had not only maintained their weight, but had gained weight," Foell says.

To learn more about ISA, visit its Web site at www.iasoybeans.com.

The Iowa Soybean Association develops policies and programs that help farmers expand profit opportunities while promoting environmentally sensitive production using the soybean checkoff and other resources.

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