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Researchers with Feed the Future Malawi Agriculture Diversification Activity recently shared an evaluation of a Soy Kit project funded by USAID. This project’s objectives were to use soybeans to improve regional nutrition and utilize women’s entrepreneurship. In their publication, authors evaluate the economics of the Soy Kit and share an approach to measuring the appropriateness of a technology that author Peter Goldsmith summarizes below.

An approach to measuring the appropriateness of a technology

While being essential for the introduction of any technology, the metric of appropriateness is multivariate, meaning there are many features in what makes a technology appropriate. In this paper, we use a framework involving 49 indicators of appropriateness. Evaluating this many can be overwhelming, but here I will focus on some fundamental indicators evaluated:

  • Autonomy: Could entrepreneurs readily operate the technology post-training
  • Raw material availability
  • Technical accessibility: Encompassing ease of repairs and service and being an open-source technology
  • Gender appropriateness: Does the technology match the rhythm, resources, and competencies of women
  • Waste management and multifunctionality: Allowing entrepreneurs to utilize all the product components, including co-products and by-products (secondary goods generated during manufacturing)

Summary of the Soy Kit

In sum, the Soy Kit technology is highly appropriate because it matches women's resource constraints, daily rhythms, market understanding, access to raw materials, and competencies. The capital cost is relatively low--80 USD--and all the equipment and raw material are locally available, which is essential for the adoption and diffusion of a technology. Finally, the payback period is quick, so the return on investment is high. This consideration matches market conditions where soy dairy products [alternatives to cow milk] are novel and not the lowest-cost beverage on the market. Women, therefore, do not need to operate the technology continuously to be profitable but instead produce products when a market opportunity arises, such as a celebration, high traffic events, market days, etc. 

The full article can be found at:

Kim, C., and Goldsmith, P.D. 2021. The economics of the soy kit as an appropriate household technology for food entrepreneurs. Food and Nutrition Bulletin 42(1): 104-115. https://doi.org/10.1177/0379572120981183

If you cannot directly access the journal, you can request a copy from the authors by emailing them at soybeaninnovationlab@illinois.edu.