This article is from ECHO Asia Note #15

Editor: Between 1997 and 2009, Kirby Rogers worked as part of a team to establish an agriculture-based business called Natural Products (NPI) in Bokeo, Laos. Much of this effort involved promoting soybean as a local cash crop as well as developing related milling and marketing channels. During the 2011 ECHO Asia Agriculture and Community Development Conference, Kirby provided a plenary presentation titled, “Business-Based Development and Completing Broken Economic Chains in Developing Countries.” Information from that presentation is shared here. 

In this article, I do not want to give a “wiki history” of the soybean plant, nor a science-based explanation of its properties, nor an economic review of soybean markets. Instead, I will share a more personal look at this plant and how it has directly impacted the lives of many Lao people.

Since this story concerns agricultural development as well, I want to introduce some of the strategies we learned while introducing soybean production to remote locations within Laos. However, I will start at the ending. There are now scores of villages planting soybeans in several locations across northern Laos, producing thousands of tons of soy per year.