NAIROBI (Xinhua) --
For many years in Kenya, sorghum was cultivated
for subsistence by few farmers, especially in arid areas.
They would then harvest the crop and consume it themselves since
it lacked commercial value due to low demand.
But fortunes have changed for the better for farmers, with
ready market from beer manufacturers turning the crop into gold
in rural Kenya.
From central to western, Rift Valley and eastern Kenya, the
drought-tolerant crop is putting money in farmers’ pockets.
The crop has brought a new economic wave in the east African
nation’s villages, with farmers now finding it easy to take
their children to school, build new houses and make merry from
On the other side of the value chain, sorghum beer consumers,
transporters, distributors and non-state organizations offering
extension services are among the happy lot.
Stephen Onditi, a sorghum farmer in Siaya County, western
Kenya told Xinhua on Friday that the crop has changed his life.
"I started growing sorghum about three years ago after being
recruited by East African Malting Ltd.
"It rains minimally in this area but the climatic conditions
are favorable for the crop," he said, adding he initially grew
the crop for subsistence.
Most farms in the county are dotted with the crop, and so are
those in Makueni County, eastern Kenya, and Tharaka Nithi
County, central Kenya.
Joseph Mutegi, a farmer in Nkondi Tharaka is among
large-scale growers of the crop in the county, farming it on 100
"I farm and sell the crop to East African Malting Ltd.
"It has helped me make my land productive since besides
sorghum and green grams, no any other crop grows well in this
area," he says.
Joseph Opiyo, a senior research associate at Tegemeo
Institute of Agricultural Policy and Development, noted that
sorghum has improved incomes for smallholder farmers in rural
"Farmers have managed to increase their net household incomes
by about 47 percent, which cannot be compared to maize that
failed in the arid areas," he said.
Using income from sorghum, Opiyo said farmers are able to
purchase other food items, pay for schools and medical services
which in turn have improved the living standards of the sorghum
A study conducted in eastern Kenya by Tegemeo Institute
showed that 82 percent of sorghum farmers have access to
agricultural extension services.
Some 95 percent of them received the services from the
government for free, while receiving instructions from NGOs,
research institutes or universities.
However, according to Opiyo, about 93 percent of sorghum
farmers do not grow improved sorghum seeds since they are
unavailable in local agro-dealer shops.
"Improved sorghum varieties perform better with application
"But even without using fertilizer, farmers who cultivate
improved sorghum varieties harvest on average 640 kilos per acre
against the potential yield on over 1,500 kilos," said Opiyo.
Farmers sell sorghum at between 25 Kenyan shillings (0.25
U.S. dollar) per kilo to 0.30 dollars per kilo.
The average profit per acre for the farmers who grow improved
varieties is 98 dollars per acre, he noted.
"Cultivation of well-adapted improved sorghum varieties has
the potential to increase and sustain sorghum productivity, the
crop’s commercialization and household welfare for sorghum
farmers," Opiyo added.
According to him, the challenge of improved seeds can be
addressed through tax rebates to seed merchants to invest in the
sorghum seed value-chain in order to boost smallholder farmers’