Can the traditional “Kavila Cha Iviu” sorghum variety make a comeback in Makueni County?

The “Kavila Cha Iviu” sorghum variety used to be grown by most small-holder farmers in Makueni County in Kenya. It is drought-tolerant and is fairly resistant to attack by birds. Following a series of crop failure in consecutive seasons due to drought, many farmers lost their seeds, and switched to planting maize when it was distributed as relief food.

However, maize is not well-adapted to the low and poorly-distributed rainfall in the County, and farmers frequently experience crop failure. There have been many initiatives to promote improved high-yielding, dwarf, white-grained sorghum varieties such as “Gadam”, but these are loved by and attacked by birds, resulting in low yields.  Therefore, FIPS-Africa has started to distribute small (50 g) seed packs of the traditional “Kavila Cha Iviu” variety to encourage farmers to grow the variety again.

In the current 2016/7 long rainy season in Makueni County, rainfall started late and ended early. Most maize crops have failed, but farmers with the “Kavila Cha Iviu” variety are expecting to harvest grain. They say they will increase the area planted to the variety next season.

This work complements FIPS-Africa’s campaign to vaccinate chickens against the Newcastle disease. The sorghum can be fed to chickens which can be sold to purchase maize grain, which farmers now prefer to eat.

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