- The programme was started last year through a partnership between the county government and KBL.
- It targets farmers from drought-prone lower parts of the county who previously suffered perennial losses due to lack of rain.
A sorghum project started by the Murang’a county government last year has filled farmers from the semi-arid parts of the county with hope after years of living in destitution.
The programme covers nine wards that previously depended on mangoes and rain-fed subsistence farming that barely earned them a living.
Mangoes whose harvesting season is in January and February were bought at throw-away prices by brokers, thrusting farmers into a cycle of poverty.
But the county government last year formed a Sacco dubbed Lower Murang’a Co-operative that consolidated all mango farmers for a subsidy programme.
The devolved unit struck a deal with two fruit processors to buy mangoes at Sh23 per kilogramme and added farmers Sh3.50 for every kilogramme sold as subsidies.
The county also made a deal with Kenya Breweries Ltd to engage over 2,000 farmers in profitable sorghum farming through the cooperative in a bid to empower them economically.
Governor Irungu Kang’ata while launching the programme in September last year said the semi-arid parts of the county had been left behind economically due to the minimal rainfall they receive.
Cherry Mbatha, a farmer, expressed optimism that her earnings would drastically rise after planting sorghum on four acres of land.
The crop that is in the process of maturing will turn her fortunes, she said, and save her from the perennial losses she incurred while planting maize and beans.
“The seeds I planted two months ago have done very well and my farm has never been greener,” she said, adding that her main source of income has been mangoes.
Martha Kioko, another farmer, said sorghum farming will push her through her retirement after decades in the public service.
The produce, she said, will drastically boost her earnings as it has a sure market and that it will complement her current earnings.
The county executive in charge of Trade Paul Mugo said farmers stand to earn at least Sh48,000 after every three months from just one acre of farming.
“This programme is open and we are looking for more farmers to join in and start farming sorghum," he said, reiterating the county government’s commitment to empowering locals.
Mugo said the programme was started to provide equity for residents of dry areas saying those living near the upper parts of the county have cash crops such as tea, coffee and livestock farming.
Gerald Gacheru, the head of agribusiness in KBL said the firm has prioritised local sourcing for its raw materials.
He said the firm started working with local farmers to grow sorghum 13 years ago and that the programme has been thriving in Eastern, Western and Nyanza regions.
“In Murang’a, we have partnered with the county government to promote sorghum farming in lower areas that do not receive adequate rain as our demand for it soars”.
He said the programme will reprieve local farmers as the crop is drought tolerant and will do well even when other crops such as maize experience total failure due to shortages of rain.
The company engages the farmers in contract farming which offers them a guaranteed market and enables them to plan for their earnings.
Under the deal, an aggregator will pay farmers Sh48 per kilogramme upon delivery. The aggregator will then transport the produce to the company and pay.
KBL, Gacheru said, is working with the framers to ensure they maximize their production by ensuring they are provided with certified seeds and providing extension services that will see them harvest up to 1,500 kilogrammes per acre.
Currently, the company has more than 30,000 active farmers countrywide with a demand for about 45,000 tonnes of sorghum annually.
In Murang’a, farmers were issued with the White Variety of sorghum that has a higher drought tolerance as KBL works on developing cold-tolerant varieties to expand its farming to more regions.