UN Agency challenges Tanzania to heighten sorghum production

DODOMA: THE UN Agency has challenged Tanzania to heighten production of sorghum in order to cater for the skyrocketing demand of the grain in the world market.

The Monitoring Officer at the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP), William Lasway said that demand in the world’s largest humanitarian organisation was to purchase at least 200,000 tonnes of sorghum from Tanzania per season.

He communicated that WFP has been purchasing a huge quantity of sorghum with an eye to roll out humanitarian support to the population in need into different countries across the continent, especially in Sudan, Somalia and Burundi.

He raised the concern during a special forum which attracted stakeholders in the country’s sorghum crop, including the farmers, buyers, seeds producers as well as those involved in the fertiliser sector.

Convened in the Capital City, Dodoma, the key gathering was graced by the Dodoma Regional Commissioner (RC), Rosemary Senyamule, and was tailored to provide a useful podium for the participants to brainstorm over the development of the vital agricultural sub-sector.

“Tanzania has been endowed with a favourable agroclimatic zone and suitable soil for the cultivation of the crop, but much efforts are needed to be put in place to assist the farmers to engage into vast and professional production of sorghum,” he observed.

Elaborating, Mr Lasway noted that the  WFP has for a long time been working collaboratively with the government to assist the local farmers to increase production and productivity in the sub-sector, being in efforts to enable them getting the needed tonnes in each season.

“Most of the involved growers are still far from reliable access to improved seeds varieties, the existing gap which needs to timely be contained, as well as improving interventions towards the value addition to the crops produced,” he urged.

The Project Officer at the Farm Africa, Meshack Panga  informed that the international organisation was running a specific project to scale up production of sorghum among the farmers in all districts of Dodoma Region.

“Through the robust project, we have so far managed to reach out to a total of 30,000 farmers across the districts and the initiative continues to support the farmers until 2028 where it will phase out,” he expressed.

Apart from assisting the sorghum farmers, according to him, the vital initiatives also work to capacitate the seeds producers.

“When we started the project, the price of sorghum ranged between 200/- and 250/- per kilogram but we sensitised and assisted the farmers to improve their production quality to the good extent that currently, the prices have substantially increased to 800/- per one Kg,” he informed.

Mr Patric Byeshulilo, an officer from Apeck International Limited told the forum that his company was working to search for vast markets for the crop in different countries, saying they have so far managed to get a market for at least 6,000 tons in Burundi.

The Quality Assurance Officer at the Cereals and Other Produce Board of Tanzania (CPB), Mwanahamisi Msangi, said the state-owned Board is the major buyer of the sorghum produced by the local farmers.

She briefed that during the 2020/21 season CPB bought a total of 1,000 tonnes, while in the 2021/22 season they purchased at least 3,000 tons.

“During 2022/2023 we purchased a total of 3,000 tonnes and our expectation is to purchase at least 10,000 tonnes come next season,” she expounded.

Agricultural and Marketing Officer at the Tanzania Agricultural Seed Agency (ASA), Ezekiel Noah said for the current season, the Agency has in stock a total of 200 tonnes of improved seeds for assisting the farmers.

He detailed that, as per the Agency’s indicative  prices,  one kilogram of the seeds will be available to the growers at a patriotic price of 3,000/-.

In her closing remarks, the Dodoma Regional Commissioner (RC), who chaired the forum expressed that the government in the region has directed that each municipal council to set aside a total of 2,000 hectares to support professional cultivation of the crop in order to meed markets demand.

To further improve performance of the sector, FARM Africa is implementing a robust project to help   introducing at least 100,000 sorghum farmers in Dodoma region to Climate-Smart Agriculture techniques.

With the generous funding packages from Irish Aid, the Mastercard Foundation, and the World Food Programme, the ambitious project gives the farmers access to better seeds and improved post-harvest practices, among others.

“Despite facing dry conditions in 2023, through the project, the beneficiary farmers have achieved an incredible 300 percent increase in sorghum production. And they’re now selling their sorghum for up to 780/-per kilo this year, compared to just 250/- per kilo three years ago,” Dan Collison, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at Farm Africa expressed during his special tour of the farmers.

He expressed that, in the semi-arid region of Dodoma, most of the smallholder farmers rely on the sorghum they grow to feed their families, but low yields have regularly pushed people into hunger.

“An increasingly volatile climate endangers smallholders’ food security. Adopting improved sorghum varieties and production practices is vital in allowing the farmers to achieve a surplus, even in drought conditions,” he observed.

And the CEO informed that, during the first phase of the project which ran from 2019 to 2022 the sorghum growers in Dodoma were equipped with the skills , the development which assisted them to transform from subsistence to commercial agriculture and thus, saw them increasing productivity of sorghum farming by 30 percent.

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