Enhancing capacity to deliver impact

P. Kimeli and V. Atakos (CCAFS)

Go for sorghum, say climate-smart Kenyan farmers

East Africa

Mr John Muasya is a farmer from Wote, eastern Kenya, a semi-arid area where recurrent drought leaves 98% of households food insecure. He leads a local self-help group and is participating in participatory trials of sorghum–legume planting run by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), the Kenyan Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) and the Government of Kenya, as part of the CCAFS Program.

By planting climate-resilient sorghum instead of maize, farmers in eastern Kenya have increased harvest from one bag of maize worth 18 Kenyan shillings per kilogram (USD 0.20) to 4 or 5 bags of sorghum with a value of 28 Kenyan shillings per kilogram (USD 0.31).

The trial uses a ‘mother’ and ‘baby’ approach. The ‘mother’, or group leader, uses their farm as a demonstration ground planting 6 different combinations of sorghum and legume crops alongside a combined planting of maize and beans to provide a comparator. Mr Muasya has 44 farmers in his group, who then apply different seeds and methods on their own land.

These trials allow farmers to see for themselves the benefits of planting sorghum, with its inherent resilience to drought, as well as helping scientists learn which varieties and combinations work best.

In Eastern Kenya, sorghum is ‘a climate change ready’ crop that adapts well to a wide range of environmental and soil fertility conditions

In Eastern Kenya, sorghum is ‘a climate change ready’ crop that adapts well to a wide range of environmental and soil fertility conditions. S. Kilungu (CCAFS)

Mr Muasya and his group have seen first-hand the benefits of ditching maize in favour of sorghum; the latter has greater nutritional value, resilience, higher outputs and can command a higher price. Where Mr Muasya used to be able to harvest 1 bag of maize worth 18 Kenyan shillings per kilogram (USD 0.20) he can now harvest 4 or 5 bags of sorghum with a value of 28 Kenyan shillings per kilogram (USD 0.31).

The group makes further savings on transport costs as sorghum distributors collect grains direct from members’ houses and, with those savings, the group has opened a savings account to assist members when they need help with school fees and similar costs. As a result, Mr Muasya is now a keen advocate of growing sorghum.

“If you want to get out of poverty and hunger, you must grow sorghum and stop insisting on planting maize, which is not working for our area.” Mr John Muasya, participant in sorghum trials in Wote

A total of 366 farmers participated in the project in 2013, which identified the Seredo variety of sorghum in combination with cowpea as the best performing crop combination. The project is now being expanded within Wote and into neighbouring Kathonzweni.

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