Lead Organization:

Moi University

Partner Organizations:

Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization, Makerere University

Community of Practice:

East & Southern Africa


Uganda, Kenya, and Ethiopia




Kenya is principally dependent on maize, which demands high inputs and is unreliable in the face of drought risk and declining soil fertility. Sorghum is a more resilient crop for the marginal semi-arid lands of EAf, and a viable alternative where maize production is limited. Although sorghum is popular among small-scale farmers, there is a lack of sorghum cultivars adapted to conditions of drought, soil infertility, soil acidity, Striga, and limited agronomic practices. The research sector has also expressed a lower degree of interest.This project builds on previous work in the region by Moi University, Makerere University, Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) and ICRISAT, who developed superior cultivars of sorghum that are early-maturing and tolerant to drought, Striga and/or aluminum toxicity. These breeding lines have the potential to improve sorghum productivity. The research team proposes to collaborate with farmers in marginalized areas to select materials matching their needs. The team also intends to promote access and utilization of appropriate sustainable agronomic practices to enhance production and handling of sorghum at the household level, expand the niche and diversify the use of sorghum products, and strengthen human and institutional capacity related to sorghum in the region. The goal is to improve food security and livelihoods of the communities imperiled by environmental stresses through the use of new sorghum varieties that are resilient to prevalent environmental factors in this region.

Grant Aims:

Better evidence available to researchers, extension personnel and farmers regarding the performance and palatability of new sorghum options.Increased sorghum production and productivity through the participatory selection and adoption of improved cultivars.Distribute selected varieties to improve and increase sorghum production, especially in marginalized areas.Promote good site-specific agronomic practices for higher sorghum production.Develop sorghum-based products and diversify sorghum uses for wider consumption and increased income.Strengthen human and institutional capacity in sorghum research.Build a more agroecological orientation of the Kenyan and Ugandan national sorghum improvement programs (including the university sector).Greater resilience of cereal production in marginal maize production areas of Kenya and Uganda.

Outputs and Outcomes:

Ten elite sorghum lines together with one local and one commercial sorghum variety (Seredo) were planted in six farmers’ fields to evaluate yield performance in acid soils at Matayos and Sega in Western Kenya. 8 of the 10 elite lines outperformed the commercial and local checks. When the 10 elite lines were evaluated for tolerance to low soil P at Koyonzo, 4 of the lines outperformed the commercial check.GxE interactions and stability of 11 elite sorghum lines were tested over 15 farms with soil acidity problems in western Kenya using the Wilkinson & Finlay model and compared with the commercial check Seredo, with grain yield and panicle length as the parameters.  Six improved cultivars (E117b, C26, E97-2, E95a, T53b and IS3098) were superior to the check Seredo. This shows the potential of these cultivars performing well in the acid soils of western Kenya.Nine elite lines, a local check (Jowi) and Commercial check (Seredo) were tested for tolerance to drought and Striga in Karungu, western Kenya. All the elite lines E1-2, E117b, E5-1, E5-2, MUK51-3, N4, N68, T30b & T53b) and the local check – Jowi, outperformed the commercial check Seredo.Nutritional component analysis of 4 elite sorghum lines (T53b, Nyadundo 1, E95a and E117b) was done to determine whether the varieties which are suitable for a wide range of sorghum value added products. Comparisons were made with USDA standards. Two of the improved lines exhibited improved nutritional values (higher protein, ash, fat and fibre contents) hence the possibility that they will be useful in improving livelihoods of sorghum growing communities in western.Four of the improved and farmer selected sorghum lines (E95a, E97, E117b, and T53b ) were entered into Kenyan National performance Trial (NPT) and distinctiveness, uniformity and stable (DUS) testing and are in the last stages of being releasedResults from western Kenya and Eastern Uganda showed that grain yield and grain colour were the most important attributes considered by farmers as well as consumers in choosing sorghum grain for consumption and use in value added food products. Overall, the red and brown coloured sorghum were preferred both in Kenya and Uganda owing to low damage by birds compared to the white ones.A collection of over 1,000 sorghum germplasm entries has been assembled by the researchers from the three institutions. Materials were sourced from farmers, ICRISAT, KARI-Katumani and Uganda and introductions from Brazil. A total of 930 elite lines were selected for testing in farmers’ fields and further breeding work. Material transfer agreements were made to allow exchange of germplasm.The elite lines developed in previous projects were provided to farmers. These materials had important attributes, such as tolerance to Al, P‐efficiency, drought, Striga, anthracnose, and turcicum leaf blight. These lines performed well in the farmer fields under these stresses hence the basis for selecting some of them in the Participatory Variety Selection (PVS). Majority of the farmers in western Kenya preferred the high yielding, red seeded, early maturing, medium height sorghum cultivars. Majority of farmers were not aware of the availability of stress tolerant sorghum cultivars; more awareness forums are needed. Difficulty to access technology and its cost were the two major challenges hindering access and use of sorghum technologies in western Kenya.Baseline survey for sorghum system and markets was completed. Majority of the farmers (54%) did not sell their produce to the market due to low crop yields. About 46% of the farmers sold part of their grain produce to the market to meet their immediatefinancial needs, even though the production did not necessarily meet their consumptionrequirements. About 72% of the farmers showed keen interest to venture into alternative crops such as sorghum. Over 80% declared that they would readily use sorghum as an alternative means of seeking financial stability, citing the fact that sorghum was on high demand and fetches good market prices. Working to identify ways of moving sorghum into local niche markets and international markets.7 new sorghum products (bread, Chapati, doughnuts, biscuits, buns, scones, cake and ‘zimbare’- a fermented product eaten as a snack) made and 3 sorghum varieties for use as an alternative source of energy to maize in poultry feed formulation. Households preferred sweet, brown, sticky textured and large grained sorghum and commercial Breweries preferred white, sweet and large grains. 20 outstanding lines out of 125 selected in Round1 were prefered by farmers in Uganda and Kenya (13 sites).  These lines were preferred by farmers based on their grain yield, plant height, seed colour and tolerance to bird damage.At Moi University, 14 elite lines that had previously been selected by farmers in round 1 were subjected to PVS. Yield, grain color, plant height and tolerance to bird damage were farmers’ priority triats. Six lines were selected by farmers at 3 sites.In Eastern Uganda where PVS was conducted at three sites involving 1000 farmers, with 200 actively involved in PVS, farmer preference was MUK60 for its attributes of Striga, pests and disease resistance as well as big head and red color.Ten out of the 196 varieties subjected to participatory variety pre-selection trials were preferred by farmers In Eastern Kenya, where 30 farmers in each of the three trial sites were invited to make selection according to their individual preferences.Red-seeded sorghum cultivars were preferred over white cultivars because the farmers indicated that they would need only small quantities of flour to mix with Cassava to produce a good and acceptable meal (ugali) and brew.In E Kenya, farmer variety ranking revealed Gatunga and Mwingi sites were similar.  However varieties differed significantly (p<0.05) and there was significant variety x Site interaction in varieties preference.The most preferred varieties were KAT-100, KAT-75, MSRVE90-2, KAT-11, KAT-127, KAT-26, KAT-62, KAT-137, MSRVE97-Tall in Tharaka and those most preferred in Mwingi were KAT-40, KAT-46, KAT-161 and KAT-52. Across the two sites (Tharaka and Mwingi) the most preferred varieties were KAT-100 and KAT-75Among 31 lines tested for Striga resistance in Uganda, three showed resistance.Only 3 Genotypes (ENT13, ENT 165 and ENT 46) were resistant to Striga with a Striga count of less than 35 m-2 and 20 were moderately resistant with a Striga count of (35-79 m-2).The socio-economic baseline survey conducted in western Kenya showed most of the sorghum growers were women, and grown by an older generations who neither use fertilizer nor receive any extension services (61 %). Of the 100 households surveyed, majority (90 %) were food insecure and malnourished. Sorghum is used mainly for human consumption, poultry feed and little for livestock. The respondents were willing (72%) to learn alternative uses of sorghum to improve their food security and nutritional status. Results indicated that white sorghum is a good substitute for maize in the preparation of fish feed thereby allowing maize to be used mainly for human consumption.