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May 23, 2011

New sorghum variety gives hope to Kenyan farmers

by Ebby Nanzala

With the introduction of a new sorghum variety that is drought resistant and contains special carbohydrates ideal for brewers, farmers in Kenya have a chance to maximise their earnings. Certified by the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) in 1998, Gadam - the new variety, which matures in three months and is able to survive rainfall of between 200 and 800mm in a season - was released for commercial planting in late 2010.

"Farmers with one acre of land under the seed have been able to earn an average of Ksh 120,000 in three months," says Ben Kanyenji, a sorghum breeder with KARI- Embu. "The bumper harvest has transformed their lives both in monetary value and nutrition needs." Joab Maingi, a farmer in Kambu division, Kibwezi district in Eastern Kenya says he was sceptical when the project started, "but the income I get has enabled me to meet my basic needs which were a problem before because of rain failure."

To be able to phase out barley in favour of sorghum for its brewing activities, East Africa Breweries Limited (EABL) has stated that it will need 12 million kilograms in 2011, an enormous potential market for farmers. Smart Logistic Company (SLC), contracted by EABL to transport the Gadam sorghum, has already collected the crop from at least 4,000 smallscale farmers in Eastern and Western Kenya. "The farmers' faces show great joy when they receive money. They have no transport expense as we collect the sorghum from their door-step," says SCL managing director Rose Mutuku.

New Agriculturalist

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