Finger millet and sorghum Improving productivity and promoting agri-business in western Kenya

Food on the Table, Money in the Pocket was the clarion call given by Mr Moses Osia, County Executive on Agriculture, Busia County in western Kenya. Along with participatory varietal selection and improved agronomic practices, value-added processed products from finger millet and sorghum were showcased in a series of field days.

Mr Osia highlighted progress made by the Busia county government in the agricultural sector including provision of subsidized tractor services, seeds and fertilizer. image-4He further added that the County was constructing a cassava factory that would also process finger millet and sorghum, which are usually mixed with cassava to make composite flours.

The field days focused on participatory varietal selection of finger millet and sorghum varieties (see box); Striga, blast and weed control; row planting; micro-dosing; postharvestmanagement; and value addition. The host group of farmers showcased value-added products from finger millet and sorghum including cakes, crackies, chapatis (flat bread), buns and beverages.

Along with its partners, ICRISAT will target commercial production of finger millet and sorghum, diversification of household-level diets, value addition and processing for food, feed and industry. There is untapped potential for these crops in baked products like bread. Efforts are being made to pilot and incubate SMEs (Small and Medium Entrepreneurs) from among the farmer groups and individuals to develop products for the market.

Dr David Mbakaya, Deputy Center Director KALRO- Alupe, in his address to farmers, urged them to visit the research station as groups and individuals to access R4D technologies in order to improve on-farm productivity, incomes and livelihoods.

Dr Eric Manyasa, Scientist – Breeding (Dryland Cereals), ICRISAT, addressed the farmers and other participants. He challenged them to embrace finger millet and sorghum in their diets as health foods for the future in order to reduce increased incidences of lifestyle diseases among the local population. He also indicated that ICRISAT and partners will work with finger millet and sorghum farmers in improving productivity, value addition and market linkage.

Among the field day participants were representatives from Equatorial Nut Processors Limited – makers of sorghum-based composite flours. They engaged farmers and urged them to consolidate their produce to target the bulk buyers from urban centers. They were impressed by the high variability in finger millet varieties and the value-added products. They saw the potential of incorporating finger millet in their sorghum products.

The field days series was held in Butula, Teso south and Matayos sub-counties between 10 and 29 July. A total of 1,050 farmers attended the field days, 60% of whom were women.

ICRISAT was represented at the event by Dr Henry Ojulong, Scientist – Breeding (Dryland Cereals); Dr Eric Manyasa, Scientist – Breeding (Dryland Cereals), Mr Patrick Audi, Socio-economist and Mr Daniel Otwani, Research Assistant.
Project: Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancement of Sorghum and Millets in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia

Investor: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

CGIAR Research Program: Dryland Cereals

Partners: Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), Sub-County Agricultural Offices (SCAOs) and ICRISAT in collaboration with other stakeholders including Anglican Development Services (ADS-Western), USAID-Kenya Agricultural Value Chains Enterprises Project (KAVES), Agricultural Sector Development Support Programme (ASDSP), equity bank, local farmer groups and Busia Agrovet LTD.

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