East Africa Malting Limited has partnered with farmers in Eastern Kenya in a bid to increase supply of sorghum for brewing beer.
The subsidiary of East Africa Breweries is targeting Tharaka Nithi, Meru, Embu, and neighbouring regions in its Pesa na Mtama project.
The initiative, which also brings in the European Cooperative for Rural Development (EUCORD) to offer technical advice to farmers, seeks to offer the semi-arid areas of Meru an alternative source of income.
“We have also partnered with various community-based organisations in different areas to mobilise farmers to take up sorghum growing,” East Africa Malting Limited general manager Lawrence Maina told Smart Company.
EAML hopes this will seal a 13,500 tonne deficit, which forced the company to import the balance from Tanzania last year. Kenya, the company said, can provide only 3,500 tonnes against its need of 17,000 tonnes.
He said the larger Meru region had been considered in the deal as it will account for 80 per cent of the sorghum supplied to the brewer. The company is targeting 20,000 tonnes of sorghum this season.
Mr Maina said the project would have to deal with transport problems from collection points because of the poor road network and terrain in most of the areas which the company hopes the national and the county governments will address.
Another challenge that may face the project is the birds menace, although the company hopes that the large farms will mitigate the situation.
Harvesting is also a challenge as most farmers thresh the grain manually, which is a tiresome activity.
In the past, the company has been sourcing sorghum from the eastern region which includes parts of Meru, Tharaka, Isiolo, Machakos, Kitui, Mwingi, and Makueni and parts of South Nyanza like Mbita, Homa Bay, and Lambwe Valley.
Currently, it has contracted 9,000 small-scale farmers in the eastern region and 5,000 growers in the western and Nyanza regions.
Tharaka Nithi County businessman Francis Kiriira, one of the leading facilitators of the project, said he would be moving around the counties to sensitise farmers on the benefits of growing the crop.
“We have already bought 30 tonnes of seed from the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute and are planning to buy more before the planting season begins.
I have bought the seeds for the farmers since this is just the beginning but after they find the project worth continuing with, they will be required to do it themselves,” he said.
Mr Kiriira said the project was a great opportunity for farmers in these region and especially in Tharaka Nithi County, where sorghum was planted as a buffer crop.
“This is a great opportunity for us as no one could believe that sorghum could become a cash crop,” he said.
Mr Kiriira said they had succeeded in bagging a Sh1.5 billion tender to supply the company with sorghum.