This project targets sorghum-growing farming communities in the semi-arid parts of western and eastern Kenya, where the different branches of the team are located. Both of these regions are characterized by a high poverty index (43.5-46%) and a high incidence of food and nutritional insecurity. Since 2001, the project has focused on developing a rich diversity of sorghum germplasm, adapted to key abiotic and biotic constraints common to each area, such as drought, soil acidity (western Kenya only), stalk borers, striga, and various sorghum diseases. For the past two years, the project has also been working with farmers—experimenting with integrating adapted grain legumes into sorghum systems—to address problems of under-nutrition caused by suboptimal daily energy and protein intakes, as well as lack of essential vitamins and micro-nutrients including iodine, iron, and zinc. This problem especially affects pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, and children six months to five years old.
During the most recent project phase, the project’s newly released, high yielding, multi-stress tolerant sorghum varieties increased sorghum productivity considerably and, as a result, the varieties are now in high demand. The project is also ready to formally release eight other promising varieties to give farmers more options. Further, the project envisions engaging farmers on practices to enhance soil fertility, water use, and Striga control using integrated approaches including crop rotation, strategic use of organic and inorganic fertilizers, intercropping, uprooting Striga before flowering, and cultivation of tolerant varieties. The challenges of low protein and micro-nutrient intake and bioavailability will be addressed by promoting suitable legumes with low anti-nutritive factors in rotation or intercropped with sorghum for inclusion in household diets. Also, the team plans to ensure greater participation by women and youth in activities along the sorghum value chain, including crop production, processing, and marketing. The project seeks to upscale the consumption of fortified or value-added products made from flour composites for locally preferred products, such as weaning mix, porridge, “mandazi”, chapatti, and bread.
Investments in agricultural research take patience, time, and commitment. Professor Samuel Gudu, project leader, is the longest-standing member of CCRP’s Eastern Africa community of practice. In the first phase of work, Gudu and his Kenya team partnered with scientists in Brazil, receiving training on cutting-edge approaches to root physiology and breeding. His earlier work included both maize and sorghum, with a later shift to a focus more on sorghum as an under-researched crop.
Currently, fruits of these investments are beginning to positively impact large numbers of farmers in western Kenya who are selecting promising options from the various types of acid-tolerant sorghum varieties available through farmer research networks (FRNs). With a new funding phase, the team proposes to continue to amplify this approach in western Kenya and extend it to eastern Kenya by working closely with the newly-funded cross-cutting FRN grantee, FIPS. FIPS works with thousands of farmers in eastern Kenya, where one branch of the project has also developed numerous sorghum varieties well-adapted to the area.
Outputs and Outcomes:
Increased seed production/access to new high yielding, multi-stress tolerant varieties of sorghum
New sorghum varieties tolerant to ergot disease and striga weed developed
Development of improved management packages for soil fertility, water-use efficiency and striga infestation
Value added products developed and promoted for better nutrition of pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and children from 6 months to 5 years and for poultry rearing
Capacity of building of sorghum stakeholders – postgraduate students, farmers, FRN-NGOs and processors among others to improve the sorghum value chain
Adoption of improved sorghum varieties leading to an increase in sorghum grain yield by farmers in eastern and western Kenya
Reduction in yield loss experienced by farmers due to use of ergot and Striga tolerant sorghum varieties and an increase in sorghum yields
Enhanced adoption of better practices by sorghum farmers to manage soil fertility, crop water-use, and Striga weed
Enhanced utilization and consumption of nutritious sorghum products in diets of the affected groups and subsequently improvement in health and nutrition status
Enhanced production and consumption of poultry products, thereby improving dietary protein intake by sorghum smallholder households
An increase in application of acquired knowledge and skills about sorghum and positive change in attitude and behavior towards sorghum, legume, and poultry production systems, utilizing options by various actors and contributing to the strengthening of value chain functionality
The long-term outcome includes high productivity, food and nutritional security, and enhanced family incomes from the sale of surplus sorghum grain