Kenya Breweries Limited (KBL) has set aside Sh1 billion to promote commercial production of a traditional sorghum variety that has been found a suitable alternative for brewing Senator Keg.
The brewer is targeting to recruit more than 15,000 farmers in western Kenya in its latest efforts to ramp up production volumes.
The funds will be used in the promotion and provision of seeds and for buying sorghum from the farmers.
According to KBL western regional agribusiness manager Eliud Kiptoo, the brewer hopes to harvest more than 10,000 tonnes of sorghum during the long rains expected in mid-March next year.
The new variety of sorghum is resistant to pests and birds and is expected to give farmers a good return. It was developed over a two-year period by crossbreeding with other varieties.
“With the new variety, farmers are now guaranteed to make harvests of at least 95 percent of their produce,” Mr Kiptoo said.
KBL managing director John Musunga, who spoke after visiting farmers in Okana, Ahero on Thursday, expressed confidence that the new venture would boost operations of its Sh15 billion refurbished Kisumu plant.
“We aim to improve income and food security among smallholder farmers and make a huge economic empowerment for the people of western Kenya,” he said.
In addition to providing raw material for its beer, Mr Musunga said the grains would boost food security in the region.
“Apart from being ideal for beer brewing, it is as nutritious as any other variety of sorghum,” he stated.
KBL western Kenya field supervisor Julius Kyalo said Kari mtama, Sila and Gadam sorghum varieties, which they had relied on reported losses of up to 40 percent among farmers due to birds’ voracious appetite for the grains.
“Subsequently, this saw the withdrawal of over 5,000 farmers who had been recruited to engage in the production of sorghum,” he said.
Mr Kiptoo said they have 100 farmers producing seeds on 120 acres of land in Homa Bay County.
“The seeds will be ready by January next year and will be distributed to farmers in Migori, Homa Bay, Kisumu, Siaya and Busia counties,” he said.
“We are going to purchase the seeds from them and will provide a subsidy of 50 percent to farmers who will buy from KBL.”
Coming at a time the sugarcane sector is facing challenges, the deal promises western Kenya farmers a viable alternative.