Sorghum, which is the world fifth most important cereal grain after wheat, maize, rice and barley, is drought, diseases and pest resistant.
According to a 2015 study, sorghum production increased progressively from 2012 in Arid and semi-Arid Lands.
Kenya Breweries Limited requires an estimated 60,000 metric tonnes annually for making sorghum beer.
In a bid to turn sorghum farming into a commercial enterprise, the public sector must support the government’s efforts, an agriculture think tank, Tegemeo Institute of Agricultural Policy and Development has revealed.
According to the latest research report by the institute, the public sector can help boost sorghum farming by carrying out research on high yielding varieties.
“In the recent past, efforts have been made to help farmers access quality seeds. There is increased research in the development of new varieties of sorghum,” stated the report.
However, the adoption of these varieties is still low due to lack of awareness and access related constraints.
More than 80 per cent of Kenyan farmers use on farm saved seeds, while only 15 per cent of farmers use improved sorghum seeds.
The report reveals that there has been slow growth in the development of improved varieties for sorghum except for 2016 when 17 improved varieties were released to the market.
Of these improved varieties, the private sector accounts for only 10 per cent.
The lack of extension services is another challenge that sorghum farmers are grappling with. With the support of the public sector, production is expected to double and surpass the targets.
The extension services are crucial to provide information to farmers about new technologies and agronomic practices.
“An efficient and well-functioning extension system is critical for sorghum production to thrive,” says Tegemeo Institute Lead Researcher Timothy Njagi.
He observed that national and county governments and other stakeholders, must collaborate to ensure traditional and emerging information systems are efficiently harnessed to uplift the subsector.
The report for the year 2018 said that lack of application of fertilisers which is key to improved production is still low and has contributed to decline in production of sorghum in Kenya.