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August 04, 2011

Project aims to commercialize millet, sorghum in Tanzania

by Zephania Ubwani

Arusha. A programme is underway to improve the cultivation of sorghum and millet to enable farmers to earn more harvests and incomes from the two crops. Through the programme, farmers will access quality seeds and be assisted to market their produce.

Ms Frida Mgonja, the project coordinator of Harnessing Opportunity for Productivity Enhancement (Hope) of Sorghum and Millet in sub-Saharan Africa, who is also a senior researcher with the Selian Agricultural Research Institute in Arusha, said it was vital for farmers to go beyond subsistence cultivation of sorghum and millet.

The Hope project took off in Tanzania in July 2009...Its implementation will cost $250,000. It is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation with the technical support of the International Crop Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).

She said for the first time sorghum and millet farmers would be linked to potential markets of the two crops in and outside the country to enable them to get more benefits.

Unfortunately, according to Ms Mgonja, up to 90 per cent of finger millet produced in Tanzania is exported to Kenya for production of nutrient flours, which are then re-exported back into the country.

In Tanzania, it is estimated that about 700,000 hectares are under sorghum cultivation while millet fields cover about 440,000 hectares. Sorghum produced annually is estimated at 900,000 tonnes.

Most of the sorghum and millet produced in Tanzania is consumed by the producing households or sold primarily for production of traditional beer.

With maize becoming increasingly cheaper than sorghum in many local markets, the latter may be a good potential for expanding production in the view of price differences.

The Citizen

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