Murang’a Sorghum Farmers Optimistic For High Returns

As harvesting season for sorghum draws near, farmers from the lower parts of Murang'a County are hoping to reap big, from an agreement they signed last year with the East African Breweries Limited (EABL). With the advantage of high rainfall experienced in the region last season, hundreds of farmers are expected to harvest high yields of sorghum, which they planted in October last year, after receiving certified seeds of the crop from EABL. The County Government of Murang'a led by Governor Irungu Kang'ata, spearheaded signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), between the farmers and the Company, with the devolved entity committing to support local farmers, to grow sorghum, while EABL provides ready market for the yields. Through the MoU, EABL distributed more than 6, 000 kgs of certified seeds of sorghum, to about 2, 000 farmers drawn from parts of Maragua, Ithanga and Gatanga Sub-counties. The contractual farming is geared towards supporting residents of the region, which normally receive minimal r ains and ensure they have a source of livelihood. The County Executive for Trade and Cooperatives, Kimani Mugo, while visiting the sorghum farms, Friday, confirmed that farmers were indeed expecting a bumper harvest, and better still, EABL was also ready to buy the entire sorghum harvest from the farmers. He noted EABL has promised to buy every kilo of sorghum at Sh.48 at farm price, saying that farmers were waiting for their yields to dry before they start harvesting. 'One acre is estimated to produce over seven 90-kilo sacks of sorghum and a farmer can make over Sh30,000 by selling each kilo of sorghum at Sh.48,' observed Mugo. The County Executive stated that the project is targeting to benefit both the growers in the lower region and the dairy farmers in upper parts of Murang'a who can use the sorghum stalks to feed their animals. The aggregator assigned by EABL to collect sorghum from farmers, Eva Muthoni, confirmed that the farmers will be paid immediately after their sorghum is collected. 'We are here in Murang'a to purchase sorghum from farmers and we will be paying them immediately after the commodity is weighed and packaged for transport,' she noted. One of the local farmers, Cherryl Mbatha and a representative of the lower Murang'a Co-operative, noted with satisfaction that farmers in the area will greatly benefit from sorghum farming, given that the area is semi-arid and many of the conventional crops, often fail due to unreliable rainfall. 'This particular crop will help many residents of the area earn an income. For a long time, we have relied on maize, which doesn't do well due to poor rainfall,' she averred. EABL Head of Agribusiness, Gerald Gicheru, explained that the Company has embarked on local sourcing of raw materials, aimed at supporting farmers in the country. He said the programme of engaging farmers to grow sorghum in various parts of the country, has been going on for the last 13 years. 'We have worked with farmers from the upper eastern region and lake side counties among oth er areas, that do not receive adequate or reliable rainfall. This is a good deal for farmers because the sorghum is drought resistant and the contractual farming guarantees the growers, a ready market for their produce,' he added. Gicheru said that the brewer gave free seeds to farmers, as a way of ensuring they only use certified and high quality seeds. 'EABL also provided extension officers to work with the farmers, most of whom are small scale in order to maximize production,' he noted. Gicheru further explained that the Company has sought the services of an aggregator, who will collect the sorghum from the farmers and deliver it to the brewer. He stated that the contractual farming program currently engages about 30, 000 active farmers across the country and with growing demand, they could engage more farmers in future. Source: Kenya News Agency