I recall the day Africa Harvest Project Manager, Ms. Doreen Marangu, approached me with a proposition to set up a demonstration plot on my farm. I was hesitant. Being a fish farmer, I did not know what I would do with the matured sorghum crop. To the best of my knowledge, sorghum was only used to make porridge, and grew best at the KALRO station.
I later agreed to set aside ½ an acre of my 2.25 acres that I had recently ploughed with the aim of cultivating tomatoes. The agreement was that we would grow sorghum varieties for one season and for demonstration purposes only. Farmer groups and other neighboring farmers would be welcome to learn about sorghum agronomy and even participate in variety selection, depending on their preferences and intended use To my amazement, and that of other farmers, the sorghum crop in all the plots had very high yields. The assumption that the improved sorghum varieties only performed well in the research station was proven to be wrong.
At the time, several fish farmers in my area were experiencing a shortage of fish feed. We had remained reliant on maize for a long time despite the area being semi-arid. Maize productivity was low. The possibility of using sorghum in chicken feed motivated me because on several occasions, during the fish feed shortages, I fed my fish with chicken feed. We proposed to the fish farmers group that they consider our own feed formulation using sorghum. It was clear that replacing maize with sorghum would improve our profit margins due to lower feed production costs.
We sought advice from the Fisheries Department at the MoA in Makindu. From the demonstration plot, we had 12 different varieties and hybrids to choose from. The SMU project already had the varieties analyzed, so were able to make an informed decision on the best varieties for fish feed based on the nutritional composition. A Fisheries Officer taught us about different formulas to feed the fish and how to supplement the proportional weight of the fish feed starch with sorghum. With this information at hand we planted the
selected varieties on 3 acres to start the fish feed formulation.
This drastically reduced my cost of buying feed over the past year; it is more affordable to grow sorghum than maize. For the first time since I started fish farming in 2010, I was able to ensure the quality of the feed. I was also able to cut out the high cost of maize, rice or wheat bran which were not even locally available. Previously, I used to travel 296 km to Narok and 153 km to Mwea from Kiboko to buy my inputs.
The success from the demonstration plot helped the group, which now operates 50 fish ponds. As we were very well organized, we received a feed pelleting machine from the national government. We continue to work with Africa Harvest, ICRISAT and KALRO to identify varieties suitable for fish feed.