Waiguru supports Kirinyaga farmers to take lead in contract sorghum farming as demand soars
Farmers in Kirinyaga have taken up sorghum farming in droves in the wake of a rising demand for the commodity by beer brewers.
With the support of the County government, local farmers in semi-arid part of Mwea Constituency have capitalized on the increased demand by producing sorghum in larger quantities.
The demand is being driven by ready market for the product from the East African Breweries Limited (EABL) which is contracting farmers to grow the product for beer brewing.
Last rain season, about 1500 farmers who piloted contract sorghum farming for EABL in Mwea constituency supplied about 330 tons of sorghum to the brewer earning about Ksh. 15.8 million.
The number of contracted farmers growing sorghum has risen from about 1500 last planting season to over 2500 this season.
Governor Anne Waiguru says Kirinyaga has the potential to grow sorghum in large scale.
To support more farmers to venture into sorghum production, Waiguru has distributed 3000 kilogram of sorghum seeds for free to 800 farmers in Togonye area for planting this season.
Last season, David Mucee, a farmer from South Ngariama delivered the highest volume of sorghum to EABL. He harvested 20,000 kilograms from his 40 acre piece of land.
“I was among farmers who piloted sorghum farming in Mwea last season and am happy. Sorghum has become my main cash crop, it requires less work and can grow even during dry spells,” he said.
He said sorghum has made his dry land into a productive food basket.
John Mwai, harvested 2000 kilogrammes of sorghum from his one acre land in Ngurubani area.
“Sorghum does not require lot of rainfall and grows well even in dry conditions. This makes it relatively easier to grow as compared to other crops we are used to such as maize,” he said.
Mwai says one of the biggest challenge for farmers has been marketing, post-harvest losses and fluctuation of prices for commodities.
“They purchased all the sorghum at a good price immediately after I harvested, we are happy for the support we have gotten from the county government which has supplied us with certified seeds for planting,” he said.
Governor Waiguru says that the sorghum project was aimed at promoting the production of high value traditional drought resistance crops and cereals.
“Sorghum is a fast-maturing crop that takes only three months to mature and it is not only used as human food but can also be used as raw material for production of livestock feeds among other products,” Waiguru observed.
She asked the farmers to take advantage of the ready market opportunity provided by EABL to plant sorghum and earn more money.
EABL-Eastern Regional Agricultural Manager Jacob Githigi says the trial produce from Kirinyaga surpassed all other regions that are currently engaged in the EABL contract sorghum farming in the country.
The manager said the county has a potential to become leading sorghum producer in the region and the company was looking forward to enroll more farmers in its contract farming programme.
“Now we want to extend the acreage, because we see a lot of potential in Kirinyaga, our people are very hardworking and this is manifested in how they have embraced sorghum farming,” said Githigi.
He said EABL requires about 40,000 metric tons of sorghum for the production of its low-end Senator keg beer every year and challenged farmers to take advantage of the demand.
EABL has lauded Kirinyaga County Government for its effort to empower farmers to produce sorghum so that they can earn more and improve their livelihood.
“As a company we have donated two tons of sorghum to the county government for distribution to farmers for the next rain season,” he said.
Apart from brewing beer, sorghum is a staple food item in many Kenyan households. It is used to make porridge, bread, and other traditional dishes.
Due to its high nutritional value, sorghum has gained popularity in recent years as a healthier alternative to other cereals. As a result, there is a high local demand for sorghum products in Kenya.