In a 2013 baseline survey, the SMU project concluded that sorghum seed availability was a big challenge. The study revealed that the most important sources of improved seed were non-governmental organizations (NGOs), research centers, agro-dealers and local grain shops. Over 60% of farmers recycled seed from the previous harvest.
The findings led to the recommendation that the SMU project would train farmers on on-farm seed production and preservation. This would help improve the quality of recycled seed, given that on average, farmers use about 4 kgs of sorghum seed per acre, although more grain was preserved for replanting due to the low germination rates of the planted grain.
To help resolve the challenge of limited seed access, during the period under review, Africa Harvest determined the seed demand for the mobilized and trained farmers. An order was then placed with KALRO Seed Unit, Kenya Seed and private seed companies for seed production. The quantities purchased were distributed to the farmers for production. Over a period of 3 years (ending 2013) free seed had been distributed to 11,064 farmers and after four seasons the farmers were weaned off from free seed. While those farmers who started cultivating sorghum as a main crop started purchasing certified seed, about 30% continued using the previous season’s grain as seed.
During the period under review, Africa Harvest sought to achieve increased production and productivity through enhanced access to improved, high yielding cultivars (varieties and hybrids) by streamlining seed systems, demonstrating the yield potential in improved cultivars using demo plots on farmer fields) and training farmers on improved crop management practices (including good agronomics). Those SMU project beneficiaries who adopted the use of certified seeds of the improved sorghum varieties and good agronomic practices recorded an increase in sorghum productivity from 800 kgs (8.8/90kg bags) per ha to 2,000 kgs (22.2/90 kg bags) per ha.
To reap more benefits from the adoption of improved sorghum varieties, Africa Harvest in partnership with ICRISAT trained 34 Extension Officers and field staff in sorghum crop management and seed selection. These officers trained the SHFs who, for the longest
time, relied on recycled grain purchased in grain stores or markets. Farmers were mobilized and monitored to cultivate the varieties selected as most preferred during the participatory selection trials in the previous seasons. The expectation is that in the long run, seed companies will be interested in these varieties and make available certified seed for quality and yield improvement.