Kenyan farmers have found riches in an orphan crop often overlooked but thanks to rising demand and sure market it is now a real money maker

According to statistics from Pamba Viazi (PAVI), the number of sorghum farmers in Kwale County has increased from 33 in 2017 to 771 currently.

  • According to statistics from Pamba Viazi (PAVI), the number of sorghum farmers in Kwale County has increased from 33 in 2017 to 771 currently.
  • Compared to maize, Sorghum is a drought-resistant crop and thrives even rainfall fails with the cherry on the pie being its ready market as it is a key ingredient in alcohol making.

Kwale farmers have turned to sorghum, an orphan crop, in their droves and have no regrets.

According to statistics from Pamba Viazi (PAVI), a cooperative funded by Base Titanium Limited which helps farmers to improve their living standards, show that the number of sorghum farmers in Kwale County has increased from 33 in 2017 to 771 currently.

One such farmer is Daniel Kitivo, a retired director in the Ministry of Agriculture and a seasoned maize farmer, who after years of making losses with Kenya’s staple crop maize, switched to sorghum and currently swears by the orphan crop.

"It is a promising crop and I will take advantage of the ready market to increase my acreage," he said, adding that it is a crop of hope because of its high demand and stable price.

Maize greatest disadvantage is and continues to remain unstable market prices and poor yields as a result of poor weather.

Sorghum on the other hand is a drought-resistant crop and thrives even rainfall fails with the cherry on the pie being its ready market as it is a key ingredient in alcohol making and breweries such as Kenya Breweries Limited (KBL) buy it in tonnes and even commission farmers to farm the crop.

Sorghum is also an important food for not only humans but livestock as well.

Mr Kitivo plants the crop on his 40 acres land located in Lunga Lunga sub-county.

Meanwhile, the refurbished Sh15 billion Kenya Breweries Limited (KBL) plant in Kisumu now awaits official commissioning after it concluded tests of the production process Tuesday.

“We have invested at least 900,000 man-hours to date. It marks a major milestone that we are truly proud of. We will be producing safe and quality alcohol especially to people who have been consuming illicit alcohol so that we contribute to government efforts to reduce the impact of illegal brews by offering an affordable, quality alternative,”  said KBL managing director Jane Karuku.

The first Senator Keg pint was test-tasted at the brewery Tuesday by the brewer's top management as they marked one year since a ground-breaking ceremony presided over by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Since then, couple with the fact that the government scrapped its 2013 decision to tax Keg at the same rate as mainstream beers such as Tusker, Senator Keg beer has slowly emerged as the beer of choice of many Kenyans.

So high is the demand for the lower-taxed Senator Keg brand that Kenya Breweries Ltd (KBL) has had to raise the output by 20 per cent just to meet the demand.

The plant will initially produce Senator Keg, made using locally-sourced sorghum, for the next couple of years, after which it will start producing other portfolio brands of KBL such as Tusker.

The firm is currently trying to recruit more than 15,000 small-scale sorghum farmers from Migori, Homa Bay, Kisumu, Siaya and Busia to produce the necessary raw materials for production of Keg.

The government has projected that close to 100,000 jobs will be created once the plant becomes operational.

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