- Sorghum farmers have been urged to save and exchange seeds of well-performing varieties in a bid to enhance the conservation and availability of seeds that are resilient and adaptive to climate change.
- GeRRI Institute Director Dr Desterio Nyamongo urged farmers to multiply their best-preferred varieties and share the same within the villages and beyond.
The Genetic Resources Research Institute (GeRRI) has stepped in to address the challenge and promote sorghum production and consumption in the country.
Sorghum is an important food security crop in Western Kenya, however, its production has been declining over the years but it has been neglected by researchers as well as farmers.
GeRRI which is one of the semi-autonomous institutes under the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO) currently conserves about 6000 sorghum accessions obtained not only from Kenya but also from many other different countries.
Despite the large number of valuable varieties conserved at GeRRI, farmers have barely requested them.
Through the Seeds for Resilience Project, GeRRI is developing partnerships with farmers with the aim of exploring ways through which these varieties can be of value to farmers in fighting climate change and enhancing food security.
The Seeds for Resilience project is funded by the German government via the German Development Bank (KfW) and is being coordinated by the Crop Trust.
Through this initiative, farmers are given an opportunity to select their preferred varieties based on their preferred criteria.
Last season, GeRRI, commonly known as the National Gene Bank, distributed seeds of 51 different ecotypes of sorghum to 511 farmers drawn from 26 groups in Busia and Siaya counties.
The move is aimed at ensuring access to seeds from the Genebank to farmers, including those that have since been lost among the communities.
Sorghum farmers have been urged to save and exchange seeds of well-performing varieties in a bid to enhance the conservation and availability of seeds that are resilient and adaptive to climate change.
“We are supporting the farming communities in western Kenya to conduct farmer-managed trials which will enable them to select varieties that best suit their growing conditions and meet their preferences,” said Dr. Peterson Wambugu, a Principal Research Scientist at GeRRI.
He added that the gene banks were broadening the choice of varieties that farmers have for fighting climate change by giving each farmer three varieties for testing on their farms.
According to scientists, the future of food security amid climate change is in growing different crops and varieties as each has different performance based on their traits.
During feedback meetings on the performance of the seeds provided by GeRRI, farmers in Busia gave their experiences with the three varieties that each received for trials.
While some lost all their crop to floods along river Nzoia in Bundalangi, others were impressed by at least one of the varieties and are already sharing seeds with neighbours and relatives within and outside their groups and counties.
“All my three varieties germinated well although ‘A’ took long to mature, it yielded the best, ‘B’ was fast maturing and better yielding than ‘C’ which was highly attacked by birds,” said Boniface Omenda, a farmer from Nasuna, Bundalangi.
Omenda echoed the frustration that farmers face due to bird attacks, particularly for white sorghum varieties which are highly attacked by birds compared to red sorghum.
It is therefore not surprising that most of the varieties selected by farmers from GeRRI’s collection were red sorghum varieties.
Another farmer, Clement Okuvi wondered if one of the varieties issued to him was meant for fodder.
It grew so tall, he said but barely yielded anything.
He however was impressed by the fast-maturing variety adding that its light colour did not need supplementing from cassava flour while preparing either porridge or ugali.
GeRRI Institute Director Dr Desterio Nyamongo urged farmers to multiply their best-preferred varieties and share the same within the villages and beyond.
He added that through this program, farmers would grow what they like as opposed to depending on commercially sourced seeds that are limited to what is available in the market.
“Now that you have managed to get back varieties that had been lost, ensure that you do not lose them again by multiplying and sharing,” said Dr Nyamongo
In a bid to deal with the challenge of attack by birds, Dr Nyamongo advised the farmers to plant the susceptible varieties late as birds are quick to feed on whatever matures first.
While some of the varieties were highly resistant to weeds especially Striga, there were those that were susceptible to the same.
Farmers expressed interest in establishing community seed banks where they would select and save seeds that would be loaned to community members for planting and paid at interest.
This approach would ensure discipline in seed saving as well as multiplication and preservation.