Drought-tolerant crops to the rescue in Kenya
Replacing maize with drought-tolerant crops such as sorghum, millets, pigeonpea, cowpea and green gram is helping farmers overcome the failure of rains and its damaging impact on maize in Busia county in western Kenya.
Lately maize had taken over traditional crops like sorghum and millets in Busia county. With the failure of rains in the March-July and August-December rainy seasons in 2016, farmers who planted maize have been most affected.
To promote drought-tolerant crops like millets and sorghum, farmers have been trained on good agricultural practices, post-harvest handling and value addition, and have been provided with quality seed of improved varieties. Capacity building of farmers and agricultural extension workers to promote production and utilization of sorghum, finger millet and groundnuts has resulted in 62.7 tons of quality seed of the three crops being accessed by farmers in three counties in western Kenya during the 2016/17 short rainy season.
This was possible due to a collaboration between the Busia county government, the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) and ICRISAT. This work has been going on over the past three seasons in eight counties in Kenya.
On 20 January, representatives from the Busia county government, KALRO, ICRISAT, media and farmers visited sorghum seed production farms and several farmers to appreciate the capacity of drought-tolerant crops to mitigate the effects of drought and ensure food and nutritional security. The foundation seed production is done in collaboration with the Farmer’s Training Centre of the county government and trained community farmer seed producers. The sorghum and millet farmers visited had enough grain to last them until next harvest (July 2017) whereas 8 in 10 farmers who planted maize had total crop failure.
Dr Moses Osia Mwanje, County Executive for Agriculture (Minister for Agriculture), reiterated the importance of crop diversification and improved post-harvest handling as key to ensure not only food and nutritional security but also to generate cash income from sale of surplus produce. The Minister reiterated his full support to the initiative.
Speaking at the event, Dr Moses Siambi, ICRISAT Regional Director, Eastern and Southern Africa, and Dr Eric Manyasa, Scientist, Cereals Breeding, ICRISAT, promised to continue the good collaboration to out-scale the technologies for drought-tolerant crops to other county wards and noted that the over-reliance on maize complicated food security, more so in years when rains failed. ICRISAT will work with other stakeholders to promote community-level seed production, establish seed banks to ensure sustainable access to affordable seeds by farmers, train farmers in value addition and product diversification, and also link farmers to markets.
More about ICRISAT’s work in Kenya
More about ICRISAT’s work on sorghum