Sorghum farming helping the fight against illicit brews

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Agriculture is a major source of employment in Kenya and the largest contributor to the country’s GDP, accounting 35.6 per cent of GDP in 2016 according to data by the World Bank. Most importantly, it is the source of livelihood for most of the rural population and the key to food security and reduction of poverty.

Farmers are not only playing a crucial role in building the economy, they are also key in the fight against illicit brewing by providing raw materials for products that Kenyans and the rest of the world love.  For months on end, a farmer in Nyanza or Eastern Kenya toils and dedicates their time to produce the best quality of sorghum that is a critical raw material in the production of beer.

Today, 80 percent of raw material used at Kenya Breweries Limited (‘KBL’) is locally sourced, a milestone that has been achieved through strategic partnerships in the value chain. This has created employment for over 30,000 farmers, and continuously generates business value by supporting over 80,000 businesses.

A few years back, Illicit brews was one of the major challenges facing the country, with thousands of youths opting for drinks such as chang’aa, which were cheap but often posed serious dangers to their health. The products, contaminated with methanol and other concoctions, eventually caused blindness and resulted in death.

This led to the introduction of Senator Keg in the Kenyan market which is now providing a safe, affordable beer that is in the center of the fight against illegal brews. The ongoing formalisation process to enable licensing of outlets that previously sold illegal alcohol, making them exclusive Senator Keg outlets, will also ensure that consumer get high-quality beer in hygienic conditions at affordable prices.

The misuse of alcohol can cause serious problems for individuals, communities and the society, and one way of combating this is by providing consumers with information and tools they need to make informed choices about alcohol consumption.  Alcohol manufacturers have a responsibility to create a responsible drinking culture

In support of World Health Organization’s target of reducing alcohol related harm by 10pc come 2025, KBL has made great strides in launching initiatives that promote responsible drinking. One such initiative is the “Under 18Asipewe” campaign that has engaged more than 20,000 retailers, helping them understand why it is wrong to sell alcohol to anyone under the age of 18.

Collaboration with industry partners is a key component of these efforts, involving partnerships with the government, NGOs and the society, to raise awareness and change behavior.  KBL’s aim is to recruit at least 1one million responsible drinking ambassadors by 2020 as well as increase underage education initiatives by 50pc by 2020.

Farmers, who are changing the community for the better, deserve to have a comfortable and decent life. Through Senator Keg, we are supporting this concept by providing a market for drought resistant crops such as sorghum, which is diversifying the country’s crop base and improving overall food security.

Economic empowerment is key in maintaining the mutually beneficial partnership, which has seen us pay over 2billionannually to barley and sorghum famers across the country.

Our engagement with these small-scale farmers also focuses on the “Jilishe Kisha Uuze” programme that encourages farmers to grow sorghum and millet to meet their household needs then thereafter, sell the surplus to increase their income.

In the end, our desire is enhanced value partnerships with farmers to provide quality sorghum. This will ensure the production of Senator Keg continues and that consumers have a healthy and affordable option, pulling them away from the jaws of illicit brews.

(Kiniti is the EABL Corporate Relations Director)

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