Nelly Bassily | May 9, 2011
This story illustrates an interesting side effect of a business venture. Seeds of Gadam sorghum were distributed in eastern Kenya as part of a project involving the Ministry of Agriculture and Kenya Agricultural Research Institute. The crop was bought by a beer manufacturer, guaranteeing a market for the farmers. While farmers were at first reluctant to grow the variety, they are now beginning to use the Gadam variety as a food crop, keeping some for their families rather than selling it all. Since its introduction in 2009, it has yielded more reliably than maize in this region, and is tasty and nutritious. Gadam sorghum is highly adapted to the semi-arid environments of eastern Kenya.
For more information on the cultivation of Gadam sorghum, see: http://www.kari.org/kasal/katumanidocs/extension_farmer_pamphlet1.pdf
From the Government of Kenya website: http://www.kilimo.go.ke/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=203:sale-of-gadam-sorghum-launched-in-mwingi&catid=149:news&Itemid=46
Here are some previous Farm Radio Weekly stories on growing crops for beer companies:
Zambia: Better incomes through sorghum http://weekly.farmradio.org/2010/07/05/2-uganda-drama-and-song-raise-awareness-of-climate-change-by-sawa-pius-for-farm-radio-weekly-in-uganda/
Rwanda: 5,000 farmers contracted to grow maize for beer http://weekly.farmradio.org/2008/02/25/3-rwanda-5000-farmers-contracted-to-grow-maize-for-beer-the-east-african/
South Africa: Ancient brew has Eastern Cape buzzing with employment opportunities http://weekly.farmradio.org/2008/02/11/south-africa-ancient-brew-has-eastern-cape-buzzing-with-employment-opportunities-various-sources/
East Africa: Farmers earn better profits by selling directly to Coca Cola and East Africa Breweries http://weekly.farmradio.org/2010/04/19/1-east-africa-farmers-earn-better-profits-by-selling-directly-to-coca-cola-and-east-africa-breweries-business-daily-africa-new-vision-daily-nation/
This radio script from Uganda tells the story of a farmer who plants a new variety of sorghum that is supplied by a beer company looking for local supplies:
Sekedo, a drought resistant sorghum for Karamoja (Package 84, Script 1, August 2008). http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/84-1script_en.asp
This story raises issues around testing new crops and new varieties. You might consider producing radio spots or interviewing farmers about how they decide to experiment with new crops or new varieties. For maize-growing regions in particular, you could follow up this story by asking farmers about the benefits and advantages of growing maize as compared to sorghum. Consider the following questions in your research:
-Where do farmers get information about new varieties?
-What factors do farmers consider when choosing a new variety?
-What circumstances would convince farmers to try a completely different crop?
-Which are the most important factors that farmers consider when planning which crops to plant? For example, how important are factors like marketability, taste or climate?