The Sorghum for Multiple Uses (SMU) project is a partnership project designed by the International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and Africa Harvest in partnership with the National Agriculture Research Centers (NARCs) in Kenya and Tanzania. The aim is to fast-track adoption of released sorghum cultivars in the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs) of Kenya and Tanzania.
The project seeks to improve food and income security through increased sorghum production consumption at the household level. The project also seeks to enhance commercial market linkages for surplus grain as a means for income and livelihood diversification; this is because the commercial potential for use of sorghum as a raw material in food, feed, fodder and malting industries is far from being realized.
Increased consumption of sorghum and sorghum based products at the household level would
significantly contribute to food and nutritional security. A deliberate attempt was made to assemble traditional/indigenous and foreign recipes to support the development and promotion of products which are more appealing and tasty. Acceptance and adoption has been a gradual process; farmers in the region still view maize as the main crop, despite its constant failure. The paradox is that sorghum grows in areas where few other alternatives exist
and requires about half the amount of water maize does. The challenge remains the sensitization of the communities on the importance of sorghum and training in sorghum value addition.
The SMU project has also set out to increase utilization of sorghum and sorghum-based dishes at the household and community level through training individuals in the preparation of recipes and demonstrating various alternative dishes. Preparation of recipes using locally
available ingredients is carried out in partnership with resource persons from the Home Economics Department of the MoA. The communities are exposed to these dishes during field days or other community based meetings. In addition to blending the grain with other local ingredients, the contribution to nutrition is also based on sorghum’s nutritive value: the crop is
a good source of protein, carbohydrates, fiber, energy, iron and potassium. The project sensitizes target communities to these attributes. Sorghum dishes prepared by SMU project trained groups.
Although approximately 2,300 MT of sorghum grain with a market value of KES 73,600,000 (USD 736,000) was produced by SMU beneficiaries in 2015, increasing utilization at the household, community and mass market levels is by far the most lucrative option for market development. Blending sorghum with other grains, such as wheat in bread making, presents yet another lucrative market segment which could change the fortunes of SHFs in ASALs. Benefits accruing from increasing local production and utilization of sorghum would extend to the national economy through import substitution and hence, foreign exchange savings.
Africa Harvest has trained 47 farmer trainers on sorghum value addition. They understand the nutrition profile of sorghum, including the comparison of sorghum nutritive values with those of maize and other cereals. These trainers are empowered to promote sorghum as a healthy food in the villages which will definitely improve the food security of these areas.
More effort is therefore required to increase training on the nutritional benefits of sorghum as well as influencing dietary choices, particularly that of the growing middle income earners, diet conscious consumers (such as diabetics) as well as other niche and profitable market segments (such as baby foods). Making these new and nutritious products readily available to communities in the sorghum growing areas would further enhance their uptake and contribution to household dietary diversity and nutrition. A study was conducted by Sibhatu, et al 20151 on production diversity and dietary diversity and their impact on nutrition. They found that better market access tends to increase dietary diversity and nutrition. This means the SMU approach on market focus on surplus produce is likely to translate to better household nutrition.