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Oburu Oginga: Why I fell in love with sorghum

Saturday August 13 2016

A file photo of Oburu Oginga in his sorghum

A file photo of Oburu Oginga in his sorghum farm. Kisumu County says he owes Sh295,743 in rates for land marked as Kisumu Bloc 7/509. PHOTO | NELCON ODHIAMBO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

NELCON ODHIAMBO
By NELCON ODHIAMBO
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Politics may be the only thing that many know Dr Oburu Oginga for.

Yet the seasoned politician is also a successful farmer currently cultivating white sorghum on his 70-acre farm.

Dr Oburu, who has been elected as MP for Bondo constituency for the past 19 years before being nominated to Senate in 2013, spoke to Seeds of Gold on his farm in Bondo, Siaya County, on why he decided to plant sorghum.

“Sorghum being a traditional crop, does well in harsh climates similar to the one in Bondo.

The region has been facing acute drought over the years and this has affected maize yields, exposing residents to starvation, and poverty” he says.

After approaching East African Maltings Limited who assured him of a ready market, the legislator embarked on cultivation.

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Oburu is now looking at up to Sh3 million in two weeks from selling his harvest to the East African Maltings Limited, the company that contracted him to supply them with white sorghum used in the making of beer and keg.

Mr Lawrence Maina, the general manager of East African Maltings Limited, estimates the farmer harvests at least 100 tonnes of white sorghum.

Maina says the company has set a standard price of Sh34 for a kilo of white sorghum and has urged the residents to embrace the crop assuring them of direct market.

“I am calling upon Siaya residents to start planting sorghum as a cash crop and a food crop and ensure that they are empowered financially and are food secure. We will provide the farmers with direct market for their produce,” said Maina.

THOROUGH RESEARCH

Oburu who had previously grown maize and cotton was lucky not to experience any diseases partly because it was the first time he was planting the crop on his farm.

He says he did not encounter any disease because he had been practising rotational cultivation and the crop is disease resistant because it is an indigenous crop.

“Sorghum being a drought and disease resistant crop does well in Bondo which is a semi-arid place,” says Dr Oburu.

However, he did incur expenses scaring away birds from his farm five weeks before harvesting.

Oginga with some visitors in the sorghum farm.
Oginga with some visitors in the sorghum farm. PHOTO | NELCON ODHIAMBO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

He called on the county government and the national government to contain the birds invading the crops especially when the plants are starting to produce fruits.

He says that in one week he is forced to spend at least Sh10,000 to hire casual workers to scare away the birds.

Maina, however, has a solution: “Large cultivation sorghum will reduce the risk of the birds invading the crop because the birds will get bored with the crop and keep away.”

Oburu asked the farmers venturing into the cultivation of white sorghum to conduct thorough research of the crop before planting.

“I contacted East African Maltings Limited who informed me of a ready market. I then embarked on thorough research of the crop maintenance before cultivating it,” said Oburu.

PESTS AND DISEASES

He advised farmers to observe timely planting procedures, proper fertiliser application and pest control in order to receive the intended yields.

Dr Oburu added that good farming practices will enable the farmers to achieve their target and make them financially stable and food secure.

He also asked the farmers to cultivate Seredo, a sorghum species that is not a favourite of the birds.

Maina asks the farmers to be cautious of diseases such as seedling blights, leaf diseases, smuts, downy mildews, root and stalk diseases, sorghum ergots and viral diseases that affect the crop and are controlled by spraying with fungicides and uprooting in case of viral diseases.

“As a leader it is easier for me to convince the people on the importance of cultivating the crop as a cash earner thus uplifting their economic status,” says Oburu.