KIENI, Kenya, Mar 7 – Kieni Constituency, in the heart of Central Kenya, has had a proposition made to its residents; grow sorghum and get a ready market for it.
The proposer is Kenya Breweries Limited as part of their mission to give back to the residents. After all, they include a vast majority of Kenyans who have been consuming its Keg Senator alcoholic beverage, making it a popular brand countrywide.
Additionally, the company’s annual demand for sorghum is close to 22,000 metric tonnes, which according to the company is a 944 percent increase over the last financial year, meaning they are in dire need of sorghum.
John Nderitu, a resident of the constituency says he is ready and willing to take up the challenge. He explains that he has a good-enough piece of land that has not been giving him the kind of returns he would wish for.
“I have been breeding a couple of cows for milk which I supply to a local dairy, but that money is never sufficient, I hope the sorghum idea will work,” says Nderitu, a local farmer who owns three cows and grows vegetables says.
Three more residents explain that they would willingly give the idea a chance, hoping that it can give them good financial returns that will help them see their children through school and assist them in their daily lives.
Mary Wambui, who agrees with her fellow residents on the viability of the idea, however expresses concern over her lack of knowledge on how to grow the crop, which KBL Managing Director Jane Karuku addressed during the launch of a Sh3 million ablution facility funded by KBL in Mweiga Ward in Kieni.
“To see this initiative through and to sustain the production of sorghum, KBL will work hand in hand with willing farmers through its agriculture arm of East African Maltings Limited which will train them on effective sorghum farming methods. Additionally, we have guaranteed them a ready market for their produce,” Karuku says.
The proposal was backed by Mweiga MCA Antony Mwaniki Kanyiri and Kieni MP Kanini Kega. According to the MP, Kieni residents would greatly benefit from the initiative, leading them to economic prosperity.
– The perks of growing sorghum –
“Apart providing a ready market, which translates to financial gains to farmers, jobs will be created for residents in the area. It will also be a win-win situation for all parties; farmers will make money, KBL will get a crucial raw material to foster more production of Keg senator ultimately making money and finally, the government will earn more taxes,” Karuku continued.
Financial gain (and poverty alleviation in the long run) for a crop that has been widely used locally for home consumption until brewing commercialized its demand in 2009, is not the only gain. Sorghum is a more resistant crop that will additionally be useful in addressing the issue of climate change and adaptation and food security.
Growing of sorghum for brewing purposes has however been facing challenges. For instance, the government increased tax on sorghum brewed beer in 2013 leading to the fall in demand for sorghum.
It also led to a shrink of sorghum farmer population and inevitably into the crop output declining 84 percent to 2,060 metric tonnes.
“As the largest market guarantor for sorghum and driven by the need to cushion farmer livelihoods, KBL made a strategic decision to absorb over 13,000 metric tonnes of surplus grain not needed for keg production,” Karuku said in an earlier statement.
“Sorghum received a lifeline last year with the review of the excise tax for beers manufactured using 75 percent locally sourced sorghum, millet or cassava, reviving its demand and renewing hope for over 30,000 small scale farmers initially recruited into the program, close to 100 keg distributors and another 12,000 retailers,” she continued.