Article by O K’onyango & W Kipsang @BusinessDaily PC: J Nyataya
The arid Kerio Valley in Elgeyo Marakwet County is known for pastoralism. However, this source of livelihood has over the years proved unreliable, unsustainable and even dangerous due to rampant cases of banditry.
However, with calm gradually returning in the region, farmers are now shifting to sorghum farming in a bid to boost their economic livelihoods. Farmers says they are shifting from pastoralism to sorghum as a way of warding of bandits who are after livestock.
Daniel Suter, 33, and his 65-year-old mother Jenifer Talaa of Kabetwa in Tot, Marakwet East Sub-County are among the farmers who have ventured into sorghum farming. They consider the investment to be less riskier than pastoralism that exposes them to recurrent attacks that have turned the region into “a valley of death”.
“My grandparents had both cattle and large tracts of sorghum. I also became a sorghum farmer. Unfortunately, I stopped in 2015 when there were rampant banditry attack. But now that there is peace, I have embarked on it again,” says Ms Talaa.
Farmers in the area plant the traditional sorghum which is said to contain a lot of nutrients and is medicinal.
“In our area, we don’t need fertiliser for crops. This sorghum is the old variety that’s good for health. We sell it locally but we hope that the Kenya Breweries Limited (KBL) will provide us with lucrative market,” explains Ms Talaa.
When Enterprise toured the area, we found many farmers toiling in their farms with others already harvesting their produce.
“Unlike maize which we have to wait for more than nine months to be ready for harvesting, sorghum only takes 63 days to mature,” says Mary Chepkeres, another farmer from Lawan area at Barwessa in the neighbouring Baringo County which has also been borne the brunt of insecurity.
“It can also do well in areas with unreliable rainfall unlike maize which sometimes wither during dry spell,”
Ms Chekeres’ five-acre farm is already under sorghum. The mother of six expects to harvest more than 50 bags this season.
The major challenge for the more than 100 farmers is the lack of a ready market. However this could soon be addressed as the KBL has expressed interest in their produce. The brewer’s representatives are expected to tour the area to reach into a formal agreement with the farmers.
“With sorghum, we are assured of a steady income throughout the year as we can plant three times a year. Our people should be encouraged to venture into it and hunger which has ravaged them over the years will be a thing of the past,” says Moses Kwonyike, a resident.