Soybean growers ready for population-growth challenge

March 28, 2023

Soybean growers are poised to feed the growing world population. Projected late last year to eclipse eight billion people, the number of mouths to feed is staggering. Despite that, U.S. soybean growers are prepared to meet that protein demand challenge, according to Roberta Simpson Dolbeare, chairperson of the World Initiative for Soy in Human Health (WISHH). Dolbeare, in an interview for a story in the Winter 2023 edition of American Soybean, said her participation in a USDA trade mission to Kenya and Tanzania provided her with a better understanding of the rapidly growing demand for readily available and affordable protein.

“U.S. soybean growers have the ability to help fulfill that soy protein demand,” she said. “We know how to grow high-yielding soybean crops on a sustainable basis year after year. And a sizeable portion of our soybean production is available for both animal feed and human foods around the globe.”

WISHH was founded more than two decades ago by farmers who saw this population growth coming, said Simpson-Dolbeare. Citing statistics compiled by the United Nations, Simpson-Dolbeare pointed out that the fastest population growth is in Sub-Saharan Africa – 2.5 percent per year – more than triple the global average. “I think it’s important that these expanding areas, especially ones with fast-growing younger populations, have access to quality protein,” she said. “The versatility of soy protein makes it ideal for adding to animal feeds, which in turn can be consumed by humans, as well as adding it to human foods for direct intake.” Simpson-Dolbeare adds that food security among the world's population centers makes for a more productive and stable economy.

Specifically, the company Edesia contributes to this effort with its production of soy-based, nutrient-dense food packets. Edesia is a non-profit, Rhode Island-based enterprise that makes ready-to-use foods that help alleviate malnutrition. It’s Edesia’s aim, according to Simpson-Dolbeare, to increase the amount of soybean meal in its product formulation. “They’re working diligently to get all their ducks in a row, so to speak, so that that can happen, that they can increase the amount of soy used. I think [Edesia has] developed a good name for themselves,” said Simpson-Dolbeare, “and with some of the support that they’ve been able to achieve through USAID and UNICEF, I think they’re positioned to grow with the need and be able to distribute their food supplement products where they’re needed.”