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Sorghum Case

Taping the benefits of dry land farming and marketing outlets

Makueni County fall within the arid and semi arid climatic classifications in Kenya. These areas are characterised by two rain seasons (short – April - May and long – October - December). The rain seasons for the last five years have being unreliable leading to severe drought and famine, the most recent being the 2010-2011 Horn of Africa drought. The people in these areas are agro-pastoralists; hence their livelihood sources are depending on the rainfall. The social safety nets for dealing with short term shocks, as well as longer term initiatives that can better help to improve livelihoods and manage risk. Short term alternatives include planting fast yielding crops and sorghum is one of them. Long term options include restoration of our biodiversity, which involves employing good agricultural practices to restore biodiversity. Unless such measures are introduced to limit the consequences of climate change, the situation is likely to deteriorate further. The frequent droughts have eroded the communities/household coping mechanisms overtime, hence the need to strengthen their capacity to cope with future droughts through provision of drought tolerant seeds, promotion of small shoats, environmental conservation all these components accompanied by training on good agricultural practices, water resource management, animal husbandry, crop storage and preservation.

Due to this phenomenon, Mika CBO in Katithi Sub-Location, Mavindini  Location/Ward in Makueni County receives unreliable rainfall patterns being in leeward side of Athi river was selected for the desired change. Like most of the country, agriculture is the main source of livelihood for Katithi residents. However, with the high poverty levels, we started to promote dry land farming to address the challenges of poverty, food in security, unemployment, low incomes, and climate change. This Community has over the years been practicing farming methods which has not paid back their efforts. This is a result of their tendency to imitate those in high potential areas. Many people in this area have large farms but they hardly benefit from the efforts they make in their farms. After continuous survey done by Ministry of Agriculture in collaboration with UCCS, the practice of planting long term crops like maize and beans which require a lot of water has been absorbed by the people and the campaign of introducing drought tolerant seeds was planned to improve the livelihoods of the community.

Sorghum is a short term maturing crop and a fast yielding crop which takes 90 days or less to mature. It is a small dwarf crop with a height of 100-120cm.It is used in brewery companies and also provides animal feeds including porridge and “Ugali” when graded.

After the PVCA process, the proposed initiatives were to promote the crops suitable in Makueni region especially in Mika CBO. Thus, through the project Management committee, the campaign for sorghum adoption by Makueni farmers began late last year 2013, through UCCS and Smart logistics service provider.  Community meetings in different areas, visiting groups to discuss the importance of the crops and best suitable ones and more so the importance of planting gardam sorghum because its production cost is low, high yielding and market value compared to other drought tolerant seeds.

After some farmers got the secret behind the short term maturing green grams, it spread all over the CBO and by the year 2013, seventy percentage of the farmers absorbed the practice.

For the last two seasons, most of the community members got the concept as they have over the years planted the sorghum in small scale for household use. Through the Ministry of Agriculture, UCCS mobilized seeds which were later distributed to the farmers for large scale production. Fifty two farmers in the area entered into contractual farming with Smart Logistics company and signed a contract of ksh 24.00 per Kilogram on farm sale after harvest.

The uptake of the sorghum was faced by few challenges, Some accused the seeds saying it was  birds food while others said it was time consuming to plant sorghum  compared to the green grams and cowpeas. The case of the fifty two farmers was welcomed by the community as it has changed their way of thinking as they were able to know and go back to their traditional early maturing, nutritious and nowadays market fetching crop.

The farmers managed to get 4,650 Kilograms of sorghum  where they sold 2500kilograms to smart logistics as per the contractual agreement but the preserved a cumulative 2,150kgs for household use and subsequent seasons.  For the household use, the farmers claims; “ the sorghum is giving my family the best breakfast which they had missed for long and nutritious feed for my poultry than buying poultry feeds from the agro-vets” Mrs. Musau says.

“We are very happy as we are having a ready market and promising company to sell the sorghum which is increasing our income. We are using the money to buy Maize to supplement our daily bread because they are not performing well for last five seasons” Thomas says.

The scale up of the sorghum is expected to increase and farmers income to buy non-performing crops in the area as they have ready market and large scale farming plantations to produce the crop.






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