The Economics of the Soy Kit as an Appropriate Household Technology for Food Entrepreneurs

Chungmann Kim, Peter Goldsmith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The ability for women to operate as food entrepreneurs presents opportunities to leverage at-home production technologies that not only support family nutrition but also generate income. To these ends, the Feed the Future Malawi Agriculture Diversification Activity recently launched a development project involving a new technology, the Soy Kit. The Activity, a USAID (United States Agency for International Development) funded effort, sought to improve nutrition utilizing an underutilized local and highly nutritious feedstuff, soybean, through a woman’s entrepreneurship scheme. Objective: The USAID funded effort provides the overarching research question, whether the Soy Kit is a sustainable technology for delivering nutrition and income through a women’s entrepreneurship scheme. If true, then development practitioners will have a valuable tool, and the associated evidence, to address the important crosscutting themes, of nutrition, poverty, entrepreneurship, and women’s empowerment. To answer this research question, the research team first evaluates the underlying production economics of the kit to measure profitability, return on investment, and operational performance. Second, the team qualitatively and quantitatively assesses the kit’s overall appropriateness as a technology for the developing world. Methods: The team follows the schema of Bower and Brown and utilizes descriptive statistics, and financial techniques to conduct an assessment of the economics and technical appropriateness of the Soy Kit technology. Results: The results show a high level of appropriateness across a number of metrics. For example, the payback period from cash flow is under 6 months and the annual return on capital is 163% when entrepreneurs utilize a domestically sourced kit valued at US$80. Conclusion: The technology matches well with the rhythm of household economy, in particular women’s labor availability and resource base. Businesses earn significant returns on capital thus appear to be sustainable without donor subsidy. At the same time, available capital to finance kit entrepreneurs appears to be scarce. More research needs to take place to address the credit access question, in order to make small-scale kit entrepreneur truly self-reliant; the effects on poverty reduction at the household and village level; and nutrition improvement among the consumers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)104-115
Number of pages12
JournalFood and nutrition bulletin
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • Malawi
  • capital
  • gender
  • nutrition
  • profitability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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