First off we are glad Tate, the final member of our group, was able to fly into Santa Cruz this morning and go on all of our tours with us today.
The first stop we made today was at an organization called Soya y Vida. This organization is run mainly by volunteers and focuses on teaching people to cook with soybeans. Many of the women that help with this organization are wives of soybean farmers. We were amazed to hear that many small farmers in Bolivia don’t make enough money to buy food to feed themselves, so learning to cook with the soybeans they grow can greatly improve their diets.
During this past year the organization was able to help feed over 15,000 people through education of cooking with soybeans and donations of food to many institutions. This facility has the ability to produce 1,600 liters of soybean meal per week. Our group went through a typical training process where we learned to cook multiple different dishes with soybeans. A few of the things made were soy biscuits, soy burgers, soy milk and soy mayo.
Next we traveled to an ADM soybean crushing facility in Santa Cruz. At this facility we walked though the process of turning soybeans into refined oil and flour. It was interesting to see that two of the waste products of this process were used to make soup and vitamin E supplements. We also talked about the transportation process of these products to leave the country. Bolivia is a land locked country which forces them to export to neighboring countries before it can be loaded onto ships. There is very limited access to barge and rail transportation like we have in the United States. This processing plant has the ability to process soybeans and sunflower seeds. Each of these crops are harvested twice per year which allows the facility to be in continuous production year round.
Lastly we traveled to an ADM soybean receiving center. This facility is located 130 kilometers outside of Santa Cruz near San Pedro and receives grain directly from farmers. It was interesting to see how their practices at the elevator had similarities and differences to what we have in the United States. The first thing we noticed is they use some of the same weighing and sampling practices we do. It was interesting to see that implementation of technology. The next step we saw was a truck full of beans being emptied. This was done by opening slits in the floor and back of the truck and having three workers shovel out the truck by hand. After this we were shown the soybean dryers and the soybean cleaners. These dryers burned wood as a source of heat. The soybean cleaners were something we don’t use in the United States at a normal grain facility but by looking at the amount of foreign material in the grain that was brought into the facility would be very important in processing these soybeans.
Overall the experiences today were a great start for our group to start to learn about the differences in agriculture found in Bolivia compared to North America. I know we are all excited to continue to learn more about Bolivian agriculture tomorrow.
University of Wisconsin – Platteville