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The East African : Oct 27th 2014
30 The EastAfrican OUTLOOK OCTOBER 25-31,2014 D E VE LO PME N T Crop scientists search for better sorghum variety The ≥esea≥che≥s a≥e in a p≥oject to suppo≥t development of multipu≥pose va≥ieties By BONIFACE MWANGI Special Correspondent T op crop scientists and researchers from Kenya and Tanzania are trying to establish a sustainable sorghum crop capable of multiple uses. The objective is to support the development of new sorghum multi-purpose varieties that are higher yielding and adapted to both biotic and abiotic (insects and diseases) stresses in the arid and semi-arid agro ecologies of eastern Kenya and in the northern and central zones of Tanzania. Researchers from the In- ternational Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and the Africa Harvest Biotechnology International Foundation (Africa Harvest) have brought together key collaborators and partners to review the project and plan the way forward. “The project will bring to- gether partners engaged in activities from technology development to dissemination to uptake,” said Dr Henry Ojulong, cereal breeder atICRISAT. According to Dr Ojulong, the target group is the resource constrained smallholder farmers agro dealers, processors and consumers in the arid and semi-arid lands, in 10 districts in eastern region of Kenya and in northern and central zones of Tanzania. The farmers will benefit from training in sustainable sorghum production, access to seeds of improved multiple-uses sorghum varieties and linkages to markets. Dr Ojulong also said that the project will use established government structures and personnel at community and district level to provide such training. The project, dubbed “Devel- opment of a robust commercially sustainable sorghum for multiple-uses value chain in Kenya and Tanzania” is aimed at improving the livelihoods of poor rural smallholder farming households in arid and semi-arid lands of Kenya and Tanzania. Haulie≥s sign cha≥te≥ on EA ca≥go limits By RAMENYA GIBENDI Special Correspondent TRANSPORTERS ALONG the Nothern Corridor have embarked on self-regulation to curb overloading of trucks. Despite the presence of tough enforcement, trucks, especially those leaving the Mombasa port, have been accused of overloading as transporters seek to squeeze more profits from each trip made along the corridor. Transport Cabinet Secre- tary Michael Kamau lastweek presided over a function in which all transporters commited themselves to observing the stipulated weight requirements in a move that promises to rid Kenyan roads of overweight trucks. The development of the Axle Load Control Charter was spearheaded by the Northern Corridor Transit Transport Co-ordination Authority (NCTTCA) and Kenya Transporters Association, whose members control more than 70 per cent of the total heavy commercial vehicle fleet. Government agencies A sorghum garden in Bungoma, Kenya. Scientists are testing out varieties to get a multi-purpose strain to boost food security and lower poverty in African households. Picture: File They also want to develop partnerships with private seed companies and agrodealers in order to provide quality seed and other relevant inputs to farmers. Saleem Esmail, managing director of the Western Seed Company said, “We are ready to partner with all the stakeholders and produce the seed if the market is available.” According to a studyin 2004 by Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (Asareca), sorghum is the fifth most important cereal crop globally and the third most important crop after maize and beans in the East and Central Africa region. The finding also indicated that much of the sorghum is grown by small-scale farming households operating at the SORGHUM FOR BEER Sorghum as an alternative substrate for brewery industries (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) provides an opportunity for it to be grown as a cash crop. In East and Southern Africa, sorghum based lager beer is produced in Uganda, Tanzania, South Sudan, South Africa, Kenya and Zimbabwe. In Tanzania, the Tanzania Breweries Ltd in a joint venture with the South Africa Breweries (SAB Miller) as well as by the East Africa Malting Ltdis brewing sorghum beer. margins of subsistence and is the main staple food crop for approximately 100 million small-scale farmers. “Indeed, because of its broad adaptation, sorghum is categorised by Asareca as one of the climate-change ready crops,” said Dr Ojulong. Sorghum production in the East and Central Africa region, he said is characterised by low productivity and extensive, low-input cultivation. Of the more than 15 sor- ghum varieties released in Kenya and Tanzania for food uses, Dr Ojulong said six varieties Macia, Sima, Tegemeo, Sila, Kari I Mtama 1 and Gadam have been tested in the field and laboratory and found to have good food and non-food use attributes. At the same time, he ac- knowledged, the quantity of animal feed produced is cur- rently very low and does not meet the existing demands. “There is increasing com- petition for ingredients since most animal feed producers use ingredients that compete with human food sources. To overcome these challenges, the poultry feed industry lead by Sokoine University of Agriculture in Tanzania and University of Nairobi have been testing affordable feed compositions and regimes for rural and urban poultry keepers,” Dr Ojulong said. The aim, he added is to de- velop poultry feeds that are of high quality, use alternative ingredients that do not compete with human food sources and that are affordable for the majority of farmers. The Resource into Use pro- gramme in Tanzania has indicated that approximately 31,200 tonnes of non-tannin sorghum is needed annually to produce enough feed in the country. This can replace maize profitably if the price of sorghum is competitive enough and modalities of marketing the surplus grain are developed to offer farmers in arid and semi arid areas with a ready sorghum grain market. Transporters have agreed to self-regulation to curb overloading and damaging roads. Picture: File that are part of the effort include Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure, National Transport Safety Authority (NTSA), Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA), Kenya Ports Authority (KPA), Kenya Police Service, Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) and Kenya Pipeline Company Ltd (KPC). Private agencies include Shippers Council of East Africa, Kenya International Freight and Warehousing Association, Container Freight Station Association and Kenya Long Distance Truck Drivers Union. Under the Charter, the Authority is expected to provide regular reports to member states with names of transporters who flout weight limits. According to the North- ern Corridor Transit and Transport Co-ordination Authority, compliance with axle load limit within the region is below 75 per cent, raising the question on how practical the Charter will be. The Charter requires KPA to share information in advance with the other cargo inspectors on the weight of the containers received based on ship manifests. Cargo that exceeds the allowed limit of 56 tonnes will only be released through the railway, which is currently loading less than 10 per cent of the cargo generated through Mombasa port. It also requires KMA to develop regulations that will compel shippers of containers to verify their gross weight prior to release at various loading points. Load Control Bill The EAC Vehicle Load Control Bill 2012 harmonised the gross vehicle weight limits to 56 tonnes along the Northern Corridor. Kenya is expected to en- force the limit next year, up from the current 49 tonnes limit. Rwanda and Burundi, with an axle load limit of 53 tonnes, are also expected to raise theirs to 56 tonnes by 2015. “Protection of our roads is a shared responsibility from regulators to operators and users,” said NCTTCA executive secretary Donat Bagula. In Kenya, penalties for overloading are Sh5,000 ($ 55) for every tonne overloaded per axle and Sh200,000 ($2,203) for over 10 tonnes overloaded or more with the fines doubling for second offenses.
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