Kenya bets on high value sorghum to boost yields

Kenya plans to introduce an improved variety of sorghum in 2016 that has a 20 percent more yield compared to conventional breeds, officials said.

Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) Principal Investigator for Sorghum David Karanja said that field trials will be concluded by February 2015. 

"The national performance studies will then be conducted for one year and the goal is for the improved variety to be released in 2016," Karanja said. 
The most common sorghum variety in Kenya is the Gadam variety. The trials are being carried out under the Agricultural Productivity Research Project. 

The EU and Kenya government are financing the project at a total cost of 8 million Euros. The existing sorghum variety produces up to 1,800 kilogrammes per acre. 

The improved variety will be more drought tolerant compared to the common breeds. 

Sorghum is used for making beer, cakes, animal feeds and paraffin fuel. 

Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Principal Secretary Sicily Kariuki said the research in Kenya has shown that sorghum has the potential to end severe food insecurity in arid and semi arid areas due to its tolerance to drought and ability to thrive under a wide range of soils. 

Sorghum is a dual purpose crop as the grain and stem are highly valued outputs. 

It is also a staple food crop for many low income households 

"Sorghum is typically grown by small scale, resource poor farmers and mainly for home consumption," she said. 

Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Director of Agriculture Johnson Waithaka said the government allocates $1.6 million annually for the promotion of traditional high value crops such as sorghum. 

Data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization indicates that Kenya's sorghum production reduced by 20 percent in 2013.