One of the objectives of the project is to improve multiple use sorghum cultivars (varieties and hybrids) that are resistant to biotic and abiotic stresses. These cultivars must be adaptable to target environments, have stable performance and meet end-user requirements. The project was funded by International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). In 2012, Africa Harvest undertook various studies and meetings were held with sorghum value chain stakeholders to strategize on how best to streamline roles to be played by each stakeholder.
Through interactions with the value chain actors, market preferences and produce quality specifications were shared and this information communicated to the farmers. For instance, the World Food Programme (WFP) food quality control requires white sorghum fit for human consumption, free from abnormal smell and live pests. These and other specifications guided the selection of the Gadam sorghum variety to be promoted in the sorghum-planting areas. Demonstration plots were established to train farmers on good agronomic practices (planting guidelines, spacing, sowing, thinning and gapping) in order to achieve increased yields per unit area. To demonstrate the impact of soil fertility on sorghum, manure and fertilizer were applied at different rates and crop stages and farmers advised, based on the results. Training on sorghum agronomic practices was held on the demonstration plots and on farms.
Different varieties were given the same treatment to allow farmers to compare the differences in terms of adaptability, maturity, nutrient requirements and yields for different sorghum varieties. At the demonstration plots and on farmer fields, differences in yields and in pest and disease incidences were pointed out for the certified seed and the recycled seed crops and differences were also demonstrated for improved versus local sorghum varieties.
The choice of the varieties to be promoted was guided by the market preference and commercial seed availability. East Africa Malting (EAML) is the only commercial buyer who has been available in the regions in the past three seasons, hence the choice of Gadam, which has the qualities for this market specification, that is, white sorghum variety and over 70% extractive value. EAML absorbed all the surplus Gadam variety sorghum produced by the Sorghum for Multiple Use (SMU) Project beneficiaries.