Empower sorghum farmers to benefit from the Ksh 15B brewery project
By Soko Directory Team / July 1, 2017
By Amina Faki
Harnessing the industrial potential of sorghum is essential in alleviating poverty, creating employment and reducing malnutrition in the semiarid and marginal areas of the country according to a survey report done by the Bondo University College.
Although the 2011 report focused on Siaya County, it raised the perennial concerns that affect its its adoption, production and utilization as a staple and commercial crop in Kenya remained low.
“This is largely due to low productivity, lack of diversified products, inadequate product promotion, poor marketing linkages and unfavourable policy environment. Sorghum production at the farm level is limited by low yielding varieties, lack appropriate varieties targeted for specific uses, poor agronomic management practices, diseases and pests and undeveloped seed supply systems.”
The investment is projected to expand the number of contracted farmers from the current 30,000 to 45,000 creating over 100,000 direct and indirect jobs to support its expansive value chain.
Export Processing Zones Authority 2005 grain Production report found out that farm production went up from 118,227 tonnes in 2002 to 126,433 tonnes in 2003.
Limited adoption may be under-investment in agricultural research. “Although Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda have large national agricultural research systems, until 1990-2000 the supply of improved sorghum varieties was limited,” according to ICRISAT Research Program Working Paper Series No. 62 on Sorghum and Millets in Eastern and Southern Africa Facts, Trends and Outlook.
in 2016, a sorghum farming project was spearheaded by EABL in partnership with the Kisumu County which meant to promote food security in the area. Residents from Nyakach and Nyando were to be the beneficiaries of the project.
Siaya, Homa Bay, Migori and Kisumu are the regions EABL expects to find farmers from.
For farmers, the most popular variety is the GADAM ,grey in colour and, according to the Kenya Seed, it is tolerant to bird invasion, stem bores and foliar diseases.
GADAM is a high yield variety which matures in 4 months yielding an average of 500 Kilograms per acre.
Brewers have turned to using white sorghum for their processes and this has seen farmers increase their cultivation of varieties such as Sila and Gadam.
Traditionally, the drier regions of Ukambani were the main sources of sorghum, where an estimated 32,000 farmers have been contracted.
“Agriculture is now a devolved function; therefore, I urge our farmers to take advantage of this initiative that will not only enhance their livelihoods because of the available market at EABL” Said Governor Jack Ranguma
EABL provides the market for the produce at a cost friendly prices to the farmers, a move meant to meet the increased demand for sorghum.
The demand for this crop rose following the removal of the excise tax, an element that drove up the demand for Senator Beer – whose main ingredient is Sorghum.
The Nyanza region climate is among the most conducive for sorghum and millet production and the proximity to the plant will further benefit the local farmers more. Gross additional farmer earnings are expected to reach over Kshs. 6 billion annually over the next 10 years boosting rural economies.
“Sorghum in Kenya is no longer a poor man’s crop. The high price ratio for sorghum in Ethiopia reflects taste preferences while the change in Kenya reflects the growing demand for food processing, namely sorghum beer,” cites ICRISAT. “Sorghum may be a poor man’s crop in terms of food preferences, but not in terms of price.”
However, to fully help the farmers, key players in the agricultural sector need to provide them with quality certified seeds, fertiliser and information on how they can deal with pests and diseases, low soil fertility and water stress to help them increase the yields.
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