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Gloves for Ghana

Kerry Clark. Photo courtesy of CAFNR News. 

Women farmers from Ghana winnowing out shells, dirt and rocks from their soybean harvest. This step is taken after the beans are removed from their husks. Photo courtesy of Kerry Clark.

Cover image courtesy of fitho.com.

During a visit to help some of the poorest farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa adopt soybeans as a new crop to boost their nutrition, income and soil quality, University of Missouri researchers came across an unexpected problem. Farmers were reluctant to grow the beans as manually shelling the seed pods tore into their hands. In an area where medicine is as difficult to obtain as mechanized farming, the objection was a big hurdle in getting the farmers to accept the new crop.

Going beyond the original federal grant, Kerry Clark, research associate in the Division of Applied Social Sciences, and who is working with the farmers to improve their agricultural practices, is coordinating an effort to seek donations of work gloves for the farmers. So far, almost 1,000 pair have been collected.

The first package of gloves to Ghana, along with a kit to begin the growing of soybeans, will be shipped in March when Clark revisits the country. Each kit contains five pounds of soybean seeds specifically selected by Mizzou plant scientists to grow best in the poor soil of the region.

The gloves were donated by Midwestern glove manufacturers. The gloves have leather palms and are made for women. Women make up the majority of subsistence farmers in countries like Ghana. The initial donation was made by Midwest Gloves & Gear, Chillicothe, Mo., and Kinco Gloves, Norwalk, Iowa. Tammy Hudson, a buyer at Orscheln Farm and Home, Moberly, Mo., coordinated the gift.

The soybean project will send seeds and expertise to Africa for the next four years. Clark said the effort will require 1,000 gloves for each of those years.

A Tough Harvest by Hand

Soybean harvesting in western countries is done by machine, technology undreamed of by the poorest farmers in Africa where only hand tools, at best, are available, Clark said.

“The problem is, the soybean husk is hard, brittle and sharp,” Clark said. “Farmers put the husks in tarps and beat them with sticks to break them up. You can’t help but cut your hands when you pull the soybeans out from the broken husks.”

Clark, a native of Columbia, began her MU career in 1989 as a soybean breeder. She earned her undergraduate and masters at CAFNR and will soon complete her doctorate in soil science. Her other research duties look into improving organic farming practices.


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About this Story

Campus: UMC
Key words: Agriculture, Health, MU Campus,
County: Boone