Scaling out Sorghum
2SCALE sorghum clusters have expanded from the Meru region to Mbeere in Embu County in Kenya. More than 1,200 farmers (60% women) from the Mbeere Small-scale Farmers Forum are part of an integrated program combining production innovations, mechanization, training, savings schemes, and linkages to credit providers.
The Mbeere Forum won a supply contract with Kenya’s largest sorghum buyer, East Africa Malting, but was struggling with issues of volumes as well as quality. 2SCALE and its partners are helping to overcome both challenges. Production innovations include new sorghum varieties that offer 20-30% higher yields; farm equipment such as driers and threshers that will improve quality and reduce post-harvest losses; and introduction of rotational crops such as green grams, which will provide additional income while improving soil fertility. Community-based savings and loans groups are being strengthened or reactivated to enable farmers to access credit.
Numerous partners are involved. KALRO, the national research organization, provides seeds and supports a program to test new sorghum varieties. The Embu County government provides subsidized seeds and extension support. Equity Bank provides credit as well as training on financial literacy. USAID’s CLUSA program assists with farmer training. A network of local suppliers helps ensure that farm inputs are available at moderate prices.
The program began with a series of village meetings or barazas to create awareness. Demonstration plots were then established in each ward, allowing farmers to compare the new varieties and crop management methods with their current practices. Five quarter-acre demo plots have been established; another 35 will be set up in early 2017. In December we held the first of a series of workshops on calculation of production cost calculations, farm budgeting and loan procedures and criteria. Next season, the program aims to expand from the current 1,200 farmers to more than 4,000.