Small farmers adopt drought-resistant crops to beat hunger
Posted Thursday, March 28 2013 at 21:23
- The 67-year-old resident of Waita Village in Mwingi Central in Kenya’s lower eastern region, is happy with her resolution five years ago to abandon maize farming for sorghum.
- This is her third planting season and she has nothing short of praises for gadam, the popular sorghum variety here.
They laughed at her when she decided to grow what was considered to be food for the birds, but now it is Anna Muli’s turn to laugh.
The 67-year-old resident of Waita Village in Mwingi Central in Kenya’s lower eastern region, is happy with her resolution five years ago to abandon maize farming for sorghum.
When the Business Daily went knocking at her door, she proudly welcomed the visitors with bowls of porridge made from sorghum flour, a luxury she could not afford a few years ago.
Like in other parts of Kenya’s lower eastern region, Mwingi is a fairly dry area which receives minimal rainfall throughout the year, a situation that residents say has deteriorated in the recent years and which meteorologists attribute to climate change.
This season, Ms Muli planted the gadam sorghum in just an acre of her farm, but she is optimistic that she will harvest close to five bags at the end of March.
This is her third planting season and she has nothing short of praises for gadam, the popular sorghum variety here.
“When the rainfall became irregular, most of the youth left for urban areas to look for alternative sources of livelihood and the little maize or beans planted could no longer yield enough to feed a family,” she said.
She said from the harvest last season, she was able to get enough food to last her the dry spells, and she is able to care for her grandson who just completed high school from the surplus sales.
“With gadam, you are assured of a harvest and once you grind it to flour, you can use it to cook ugali (a type of bread or maizemeal) and even bake cakes,” she adds.
She has been gradually increasing the acreage under sorghum every planting season.
Ms Muli is among the thousands of Kenyans living in arid and semi-arid areas who have adopted Drought Tolerant Crops (DTCs) to improve food security at an individual level.
The Kenyan government, through the ministry of Agriculture, aggressively embarked on the traditional high value crops programme in late 2006 to boost production and consumption of alternative cereal and non-cereal crops as well as improve food security in dry areas.
There has been increased farming of crops like millet, sorghum, cowpeas and green grams in the last two years.
In Mwingi Central, for instance, the sorghum acreage in 2006 was 6,256 hectares which improved to 14,000 hectares in 2011, up from 10,700 in 2010. The district agricultural officer, Mr James Muchoka, attributes this slow uptake to the stereotypes that the communities associate the crop with.