MLE, educational reforms, brain development and the disconnect with malnutrition

After watching the above Youtube video, I decided to follow up on a blog entry below, “Soybeans:  part of solution to make Philippine education reforms work?”  I came to the conclusion that the action that has the best chance of providing an almost immediate impact in the fight against malnutrition in the Philippines, first to give the young a chance at a meaningful life in this world and second, to give our education reforms a chance to work on the young, would be to create a Philippine Soybean Authority.  The Philippine Soybean Authority will be empowered to mobilize the cultivation of soybeans among farmers–big and small–to produce the high-protein food products such as soy milk and others to fight malnutrition.

An Executive Order from the President or An Act of Congress will be needed to create The Philippine Soybean Authority.  The first is the easier process of the two while the latter is usually a long, tedious process.

Under normal circumstances, the Philippine Soybean Authority should be under the Department of Agriculture.  But to stay away from the usual bureaucracy and inefficiency of big government, I recommend placing The Philippine Soybean Authority under the University of the Philippines Los Baños, specifically under its Research & Extension Office for obvious reasons:

  1. to utilize the research personnel and facilities there,
  2. to take advantage of existing (and soon to be created as needed) extension facilities and personnel who shall be duly trained  to promote, administer and manage The Philippine Soybean Authority in coordination with other government agencies, domestic and international interests, especially those in soybean research and research funding,
  3. to speed up research in, and delivery of, soybean technology to soybean farmers,
  4. to promote awareness and the integration of soybean food products in the Filipino diet to the extent that soybean becomes a Filipino staple food,
  5. to direct research in, and development of, other non-food soybean products, and
  6. to minimize the stifling effects of government corruption on existing and would-be soybean farmers by emplacing a system of built-in checks that puts a premium on stamping out graft and corruption in its ranks by involving senior and graduate students (trained in the soybean initiative) in the decision-making processes in the field, as well as, central levels. The students’ stint with the Philippine Soybean Authority over a predetermined period will either fulfill a part of or be their sole individual practicum course.

An alternative would be to explore the possibility of establishing a Philippine Soybean Authority similar to the International Rice Research Institute by forming some alliances with other international entities willing to support the soybean initiative.  An International Soybean Research Institute could, for instance, expand its role to include research on many known and potential medicinal uses of soybeans.

At any rate, the Philippine Soybean Authority if created as a government unit should cater firstly to the small soybean farmer, and secondly to the industrial or commercial soybean farmer. Working together with existing financing, especially microfinancing institutions, and other agencies, the Philippine Soybean Authority should help the small farmer improve his family’s overall health and socio-economic well-being. In other words, the Philippine Soybean Authority shall primarily be in charge for the promotion and development of soybean as a cheap solution to improve the nutritional status of the undernourished and explore opportunities for poverty alleviation for our resource-poor people.

Let’s start with some pilot soybean farming and some soybean research (different soybean food products, varieties for various uses and growing conditions, etc.) at the University of the Philippines Los Baños, followed by regional pilots, and then unto a full-scale soybean farming and soybean product research and development program.  Let’s incentivize the cultivation and production of soybeans by those who have huge agricultural landholdings which are not not even used for anything except for speculative purposes.  Looks like the odds of succeeding and benefiting the country, especially the poor farmers, are excellent.

When the catastrophic effects of malnutrition among our poor, especially our childbearing women and our young children will have been ameliorated, then we could talk business about making educational reforms work.  Otherwise, how can you even consider education reforms on a large segment of the population who are so ravaged by the dehumanizing effects of malnutrition and whose more immediate concern is trying to extract one more gulp of breath with decrepit lungs, perhaps too unfeeling to wonder how the next one–if there is–is going to be?

9 thoughts on “MLE, educational reforms, brain development and the disconnect with malnutrition

  1. The milk’s journey from the cow or goat farm to your table is quite a long one. Soymilk, which has almost twice the amount of protein from cow’s milk, has a much simpler and shorter journey. In fact, working with a few implements, you can make soy milk at home in less than an hour. Just click on this link to see how:

    If you can afford a soymilk automatic maker, the process is like making coffee with a coffeemaker. Watch by clicking on the following link:

    How about that. You can even grow the soybeans yourself. Or, if there is a conscious effort for farmers to cultivate soybeans as an alternative crop, you probably can go out and buy the dried soy beans from the corner grocery or sari-sari store like you go out to buy your rice. And after the soybean harvest, the farmer can recycle the plant to fertilize the farm. And you could sell the excess soybeans that your family does not use.

  2. Soybean, A Good Provider

    “… Soybean is my husband because it gives me money to take care of my problems, to pay my children’s school fees, and hospital bills. I plant soybean to have money. Sometimes I can harvest up to 10 bags or more. Then I sell some and keep some for my daughter who is in the college at Yandev. When she comes home we sell some bags and she uses the money to buy her books and pay her school fees. She will get a good husband in town because men nowadays don’t want to marry illiterate women… I have also bought many other things that most people would like to have… You see why I said soybean is my husband. I can’t stop it for anything else. How can you leave your husband…”

    Quote from a female farmer in Abetse Village, Benue State, Nigeria

  3. Often, Poverty and Malnutrition Go Together

    Adequate food and proper nutrition are basic requirements for economic development, since an underfed nation is an underproductive nation. Poverty and malnutrition often afflict the same beleaguered groups of people. Sometimes, rates of malnutrition are used as indicators of poverty. Studies reveal that more income leads to better nutrition over time. Inadequate protein in diet appears to be the greatest nutritional problem facing Nigerians today. This is because most sources of animal protein are expensive and only few people can afford enough of them in the diet. Also sharp increase in prices of animal products is now making an average Nigerian conscious of the fact that the grain legumes may provide a cheaper source of protein.

    — Excerpted from “Socio-economic Determinants of Consumption of SoybeanProducts in Nigeria: A Case Study of Oyo State, Nigeria” by J. Gbemiga Adewale

  4. We Import Soybean and They Grow Theirs

    According to the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics, in 2007, the Philippines imported 1,322.54 metric tons of soybean oil/cake meal (livestock feed for beef, swine, poultry, even fish) valued at $392.02 million. The bulk of that, 912.01 MT, or 69% came from Argentina, and 303.56 MT, or 23% came from the United States. The rest came from India, Taiwan, China and others. Of course, this is just a fraction of our overall soybean imports. And while we are importing soybean, a few countries have taken a serious interest in soybean farming. Examples are Nigeria because of its growing population, Afghanistan because of malnutrition of the young and child-bearing women in particular, and Paraguay and Uruguay because of their desire for economic expansion and pressure from neighboring Brazil and Argentina, the two foremost soybean producers from South America. Fact is, these countries have greatly benefited from this so-called “wonder crop”. “Soybean has been a godsend for Nigeria,” says Professor Dele Fakorede, an agricultural expert based at Nigeria’s Obafemi Awolowo University. “Our farmers are earning good money, our small industries are prospering, and our children and young mothers are benefiting from a locally-made, protein-rich food.”

  5. Soy, the “Wonder Bean”

    Soybean (Glycine max [L.] Merrill) is an important source of high quality but inexpensive dietary protein and oil. It has an average protein content of 40% (twice the protein from meat) and oil content of 20%. The oil produced from soybean is highly digestible and contains no cholesterol. Soybean cake, a by-product from the oil production is used as a high-protein animal feed. Soybean also improves soil fertility by adding nitrogen from the atmosphere to the soil, and this is especially beneficial when soybean is cultivated in rotation with other crops. Aside from food for human and livestock consumption, products derived from soybeans range from body care products, candles, cleaners, composite materials, crayons, diesel additives, fabric conditioner, flooring, hair conditioners, hair styling aids, hand cleaners, paint removers, pens, polish, shampoos, solvents, tables/furnitures, waxes, etc.

  6. Clinical Study: Soybean products and reduction of breast cancer risk

    Soybean foods are rich in precursors of the isoflavone daidzein and genistein, which are heterocyclic phenols similar in structure to oestrogens, and it has been hypothesised that a high dietary intake of soybean products might reduce breast cancer risk by interfering with the action of endogenous oestradiol. The results are in line with the inverse association between intake of soybean products and breast cancer risk suggested from ecological/cross-sectional studies and also from analytical investigations. Thus, case-control studies have found that soybean food intake was associated with a decreased risk of breast cancer among premenopausal Singapore women, and both pre- and postmenopausal Asian-American women, although a Chinese case-control study failed to detect any protective effects of soybean food. Cohort studies among Japanese, Japanese-American and Caucasian-American women have also provided some evidence that soybean products may reduce the risk of breast cancer… A recent cohort study based on public health center in Japan found frequent miso soup and isoflavone consumption to be associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer and the protective effect was stronger in postmenopausal women. However, the FFQ applied included only two items for soybean-ingredient foods (i.e. miso soup and soyfoods), making it impossible to investigate differences in effects among types of soybean-ingredient foods.

    Excerpted from http://www.nature.com/bjc/journal/v93/n1/full/6602659a.html

  7. Clearly, the women going to have babies have to have the proper intake of micronutrients (plenty of them supplied by soy milk and other soy foods) to impart to their developing babies whose brain and physical development is happening in their wombs. Then after birth to age 3, the child’s continuing brain and physical development has to be nourished with the proper amounts of micronutrients (again, plenty of them supplied by soy milk and other soy foods). Of course, the continued consumption of soy food products after age 3 to help maintain the child’s continuing growth and health would be the ideal thing to happen. It would be much more salutary to conduct educational reforms on these healthy children once they are in school than doing the same thing on the malnourished. All things being considered, these healthy children could be a bit smarter. Chances are these healthy children will have a better chance of succeeding in whatever they want to do.

    Sounds utopian? Why don’t we give it a try since it’s within the realm of the possible. And practical.

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