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Tata Bi is a woman who has made it. She runs her own business, she is financially independent. She is willing to share her success with others and pass it on.
The 67-year-old lives in the mountains in the interior of Togo. Hihéatro, a small town. Two women sit in front of a cooking area in the backyard. They are cooking soy milk in large pots. One of them is Yawa Enyonam Akogo (called Tata Bi). A friendly smile as a greeting, a relaxing, calm atmosphere. The backyard seems like an oasis away from the bustling street noise. There is a smell of lemongrass and mint. First, the guests are served a glass of hot soy milk with mint. I wonder if a hot drink is just the thing to cool the body down in tropical temperatures of over 30 degrees. The mint does the trick.
Tata Bi stays in the background at first. After a few minutes, shyness and restraint give way. While she stirs the soy milk, she tells her story. A success story: Tata Bi became aware of soy 30 years ago. No wonder, since soy is grown all around her hometown. It is a seasonal business. Once a year, the beans are harvested, once a year there is money from the sale of the beans. That was not enough for Tata Bi. She wants to make a difference. She is a businesswoman, she says, dynamic and always with new ideas. With many gestures, she tells how she created a new business field with soy and at the same time created work for other women in the small town.
And how? "Soy can be made into more than just flour," says the self-made entrepreneur. The soybean is a natural crop that can be used to make a lot of food. So, she started a small processing business first on her own, then with a few other women, which provides the women with an additional source of income year-round besides selling the soybeans.
The protein- and oil-rich legume soy offers a wide range of possibilities for adding variety to the daily diet. Tata Bi and her collegues bake soy bread from clay ovens, produce delicious soy cheese, which is especially good combined with peppers and onions on barbecue skewers, try soy scrambled eggs, soy cheese sandwiches, or sweet doughnuts. A paradise for vegans.
She learned how to make all these products in several training courses at the Green Innovation Centre – a GIZ project as part of the One World – No Hunger initiative. They also dealt about baby food – because soy flour serves as an excellent basis for this. Tata Bi now packs this mixed with other vitamin-rich cereals such as millet into bags and sells them. Tata Bi develops the new products together with the four women and two men who now work for and with her: But that is not all: the entrepreneur conducts training courses and imparts her knowledge to other women via local radio. In addition to the clay oven, a small soy training centre with a focus on entrepreneurship and processing has been established in her backyard. Tata Bi invests part of her income in her growing business – for example, in a washing station in the early 2020s to maintain hygiene standards.
Nevertheless, soy is far from being a competitor to wheat or meat. Soy is still too unknown as a food for domestic consumption and too expensive compared to these products. In order to establish an additional food in society, the Green Innovation Centre supports 1088 women's organisations and entrepreneurs throughout the country in soy processing (and 6957 soy producers). With seminars on entrepreneurship and videos on how to produce soy-based food, the aim is to help women market their products to increase demand for local soy products and generate income year-round.