To strengthen sorghum, finger millet and pearl millet value chains in East Africa, a new project was launched. The four-year program will target resource-constrained smallholder farmers and agropastoralists in Kenya and Tanzania and will build on the successes of earlier projects. At the launch, farmers, especially women, spoke of their entrepreneurial achievements through the previous projects and their expectations of the new project. (See box)
The project – Strengthening sorghum and millet value chains for food, nutritional and income security in arid and semi-arid lands of Kenya and Tanzania (SOMNI) – will build on the work accomplished by previous projects, particularly Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancement (HOPE) 1 and Sorghum for Multiple Uses (SMU). It will upscale the deployment of production technologies and development of value-added products of sorghum, millets and suitable dryland legumes for household and commercial uses.
The project will specifically focus on:
- Improving productivity of sorghum, finger millet and pearl millet and increasing their capacity to adapt to environmental variability in smallholder farming systems in Tanzania and Kenya;
- Increasing access to sorghum and millet food, feed and fodder by the poor, especially rural women and children;
- Increasing consumption of nutritious dryland cereals by the poor, especially among nutritionally vulnerable women; and
- Increasing income from marketing dryland cereal grain, fodder and products by low-income value chain actors, especially smallholder women farmers.
The project will also promote intercropping of sorghum and millets with dryland legumes (cowpea, pigeonpea and green gram) for improved soil fertility and also to enhance household food, nutrition and income security.
Special attention will be given to women, youth, the elderly, and other vulnerable social groups. Indirect target groups will include rural grain traders/aggregators, cottage/village grain millers and other small and medium enterprises involved in sorghum, millets and legumes value chains. Local schools and faith-based organizations will also be targeted in promoting utilization and nutrition through school feeding programs as well as other community-based feeding programs.
Emphasizing on the need to build on the work accomplished by previous projects, Dr Henry Ojulong, the project’s principal investigator and Senior Scientist – Breeding, Eastern and Southern Africa Program, ICRISAT, said, “Despite the high nutritive value of sorghum and millets that are well adapted to the climatic conditions in the region, utilization and demand for these grains is constrained by limited non-traditional end uses – including a narrow range of food and value-added products for household consumption and mass markets”.
The SOMNI project launch was held on 20 and 21 April 2017 in Arusha, Tanzania. A review of the SMU project achievements and planning of activities for SOMNI were also taken up. The event was attended by agriculture extension officers, researchers, seed companies, processors and farmers from Kenya and Tanzania.
Women entrepreneurs rearing to go
‘I hope to see my finger millet products on a supermarket shelf’
– Ms Pacilisa Wanyonyi, 44-year-old farmer and entrepreneur from Busia County, Kenya.
I started working with the HOPE project in 2008 where I learnt about the row planting technology for increasing yields in finger millet. The project provided me with fertilizer and improved finger millet seed – U15, P224, Okhale, etc. The team also linked me to buyers and trained me on value addition. Since my interaction with HOPE, I have gained more exposure – meeting different people during activities. I now have a source of income which I get from selling finger millet value-added products which I supply to schools and local shops. I produce enough to feed my family as well as sell grain to buy additional food and educate my children. The HOPE project gave me the courage to leave my job as a pre-kindergarten teacher and became a farmer and processor of finger millet.
My wish is that this new SOMNI project helps processors like me get quality and standards certification (KEBS) so that I can expand the market for my products – crackies, cakes and mandazi. I hope to see my products on a supermarket shelf.
(HOPE 1 project was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (2009-2014) led by ICRISAT with a variety of implementers from South Asia, West, Central and East Africa. Its main objective was to increase the productivity of dryland sorghum, pearl millet and finger millet cereal production systems through participatory technology evaluation and dissemination and improved market linkages. HOPE is currently in its second phase.)
‘I want to teach others how to turn sorghum farming into an income-generation venture’
– Ms Fransisca Loko Mwangangi, 53-year-old farmer from Kitui County, Kenya.
I started working with SMU in 2014. At that time, I had no agricultural knowledge. Through the support of the project, I attended good agronomic practices (GAPs) training where I learned about sorghum farming as a commercial activity. Together with my farmers group, I also attended value-addition training which helped enlarge my vision. I now create sorghum value-added products. I moved from being just a farmer to being a processor. The project also supported a study tour to Italy which enlightened me on how I can help the poor and vulnerable members of my community take up sorghum farming as an income-generation venture. Since then, I have formed 19 farmer groups and introduced them to a credit institution (Universal Traders Sacco) that enables them to buy certified seed and other inputs for better farming.
In 2016, I attended a nutrition training held by SMU in Kitui where I learned a lot about the nutritional value of sorghum. I prepare products like sorghum mandazi, porridge and ugali for my family.
SMU has helped me to improve my living standards from a peasant farmer to a commercial farmer. The project provided me with a jiko (charcoal stove) for baking products prepared by my group.
My wish as the new project kicks off is to work closely with the project team to accomplish my dreams of improving the livelihoods of community members in Kitui County. My dream is to build the capacity of my community members so that they can be able to grow enough food for themselves and sell the surplus for more money. I would like to participate as a trainer in good agronomic practices and value addition.
‘A sorghum and millet processing machine will help farmers in my community to earn more’
– Ms Juliana Gunzu, 54-year-old lead farmer and QDS producer for sorghum and millet from Iramba District, Tanzania.
I joined SMU in 2014 when I was selected by fellow farmers in the village to get trained on seed production. I am a lead farmer and QDS (Quality Declared Seed) producer for sorghum and millet. Sometimes I offer extension services to other fellow farmers when they come to buy improved seeds that I produce on my farm. We use the farmer field school approach to teach other farmers.
The project has trained me as a lead farmer on participatory variety and hybrid selection for sorghum and finger millet. I have also been trained on good agronomic practices which includes field layout, planting, harvesting, processing and packaging of sorghum and finger millet products. I was also trained on marketing and business development skills.
I appreciate the training received from the SMU project team since I am able to produce more than I used to. I have managed to increase productivity and production of sorghum and millet. From the sales proceeds, I get enough money to pay the school fees of my two children. I have also built a modern house, bought a motorcycle, 12 cattle (among them 8 bulls) and started poultry keeping from the money I gained from selling sorghum and millet grain and value-added products.
Special thanks to ICRISAT which enabled the Iramba District Council to implement the project as well as farmers representatives from DRD and all participants that made the project a success.
As the new project begins, my wish is that it should build the capacity of other farmers and support farmers in acquiring a processing machine for value addition for sorghum and millets. My desire is to be given an opportunity to attend study visits in other areas in and outside the country and to be linked with financial institutions. But more importantly, I want to be given a chance to extend what I have learnt to other members of my community.
(Development of a commercially robust and sustainable Sorghum for Multiple Uses (SMU) value chain in Kenya and Tanzania was a project funded by IFAD/European Union implemented by ICRISAT, Africa Harvest, KALRO, Directorate of Research and Development (DRD) and other National Agricultural Research System (NARS) in Tanzania and Kenya.)