Sorghum Farming In Kenya, an emerging opportunity in arid areas
Sorghum is an important cereal that is utilised worldwide as food, feed and industrial raw material. The crop is fairly drought-tolerant compared to maize, thus, it is quite popular in drier areas where agricultural and environmental conditions are harsh for the production of other food crops.
For a long time, sorghum was considered a subsistence crop, produced just for domestic consumption, with no prospects of growing it as a cash crop.
However, over the past decade, numerous initiatives by the government, non-governmental organisations, stakeholders in research and development have intervened in developing improved varieties of sorghum with specific beer-making attributes such as high carbohydrate content, low protein content, good yeast combination and high alcohol extraction ratios.
Such varieties include Gadam, Sila, Macia, Egerton Mtama 2, Kari Mtama 1, Kari Mtama 3 and KAK 7780, which are adapted for different agro-ecologies, mainly arid areas.
The distribution of the improved seeds, training farmers on good agronomic practices to increase yields and promotion of sorghum as an agribusiness for income generation with ready market has boosted the crop.
Currently, sorghum is emerging as an industrial crop with opportunities for production of sorghum-based foods, feeds and alcoholic beverages. A key private sector player, East Africa Malting Limited (EAML), uses sorghum for production of keg beer.
Currently, over 65,000 farmers are contracted countrywide to produce about 60,000 metric tonnes of sorghum to meet annual demand.
In Eastern Kenya, the company works with farmers in Makueni, Meru, Embu, Kitui, Machakos and Tharaka Nithi counties.
Reports indicate that cultivation of improved sorghum in these regions has led to increased production and incomes of the participating households.
As part of ongoing research to inform policymaking in the agricultural sector, Tegemeo Institute undertook a study to determine the extent to which the cultivation of improved sorghum varieties contributed to increased production and incomes for smallholder farmers in Eastern, and to a large extent in other sorghum-producing regions such as Nyanza, Western and Rift Valley. The reported findings are based on data collected in the 2014/2015 cropping year.
The study found that less than 10 per cent of farmers who cultivated improved sorghum varieties in Eastern applied inorganic fertiliser, yet the crops perform better with application of fertiliser.
Even without using fertiliser, farmers who cultivated improved sorghum varieties harvested on average 640 kilos against the potential yield of over 1,500 kilos per acre.
Selling sorghum to EAML at Sh25 per kilo, the average profit after accounting for costs was Sh9,800 per acre, and this contributed to higher quantity of sorghum sold by over 70 per cent when compared to farmers who cultivated local sorghum varieties.
Thus, farmers managed to increase their net household incomes by about 47 per cent, which as compared to maize in the arid counties would have been crop failure.
Farmers have then been able to purchase other food items, pay school fees and cater for medical services, which in turn improves the living standards of the sorghum-producing households.
Some 82 per cent of the farmers had access to agricultural extension services. Of this, 95 per cent received them from government for free, NGOs, research institutes or universities.
Some 93 per cent of sorghum farmers noted lack of improved seeds in local agro-dealer shops, suggesting limited investment in sorghum seed-bulking and distribution by the private sector possibly due to lack economic incentives to invest in the sorghum seed value-chain.
A key finding is that cultivation of well-adapted improved sorghum varieties has the potential to increase and sustain sorghum productivity, the crop’s commercialisation and household welfare for sorghum farmers.
However, there is limited investment in the sorghum seed value-chain by the private sector, perhaps due to low quantities of improved seed purchases and lack of a stable market for the improved sorghum seeds.
These challenges can be addressed through tax rebates to seed merchants to invest in the value-chain. Alternatively, the government should consider an informal but effective seed distribution where model farmers who are trusted by the community are contracted to distribute improved seeds of crops that are less attractive to private investment.
-Paul Kimurto and Joseph Opiyo
Opiyo is senior research associate at Tegemeo Institute of Agricultural Policy and Development and Prof Kimurto is crop science expert, Egerton University.
Hits: 470https://farmerstrend.co.ke/sorghum-farming-in-kenya-an-emerging-opportunity-in-arid-areas/https://i1.wp.com/farmerstrend.co.ke/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Sorghum-Farming-In-Kenya.jpg?fit=640%2C426&ssl=1https://i1.wp.com/farmerstrend.co.ke/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Sorghum-Farming-In-Kenya.jpg?resize=150%2C150&ssl=1#TrendingSorghum FarmingSorghum is an important cereal that is utilised worldwide as food, feed and industrial raw material. The crop is fairly drought-tolerant compared to maize, thus, it is quite popular in drier areas where agricultural and environmental conditions are harsh for the production of other food crops. For a long time,...#FarmersTrendJohn Bujufarmerstrend@gmail.comAdministratorI am a web enthusiast, writer and blogger. I always strive to be passionate about my work. I started my work at the beginning of 2013 by engaging myself with detail reading and exchanging information regarding farming with others. Since then things and times have changed, but one thing remains the same and that is my passion for helping and educating Kenyan farmers, building a successful blog and delivering quality content to the readers. The particular interests that brought me in the world of blogging are gardening, farming and livestock.Farmers#Trend