KALRO scientists work with Farmers to select crop varietiessuitable for the ASALS: Sorghum Participatory Variety Selection

Rachael Kisilu (Pictures by John Ayemba) KALRO-Katumani

Matching promising crop varieties to suitable agro ecological and socioeconomic contexts should carefully consider farmers’ expectations and preferences. It might be unclear to scientists what key attributes farmers expect the best crop varieties to have, and which criteria they are likely to use to choose the most preferred crop to integrate in their farming systems. It is thus, important to involve farmers in selection and evaluation of the most preferred crops for integration their farming systems, and specifically to examine the development of choice criteria with special emphasis on gender preferences. The Arid and Semi-Arid Lands-Agricultural Productivity Research Project (ASAL-APRP) under the auspices of the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO), in an effort to achieve this objective, regularly carries out participatory harmonisation and ranking of priority criteria and tests them in actual selection of the best crops for uptake in various crop-livestock farming systems in its mandate Counties.

A participatory variety selection was done on sorghum on 3 August 2016 at Kambi ya Mawe where farmers and researchers worked together in understanding farmers use to evaluate and select crop varieties best suited to their needs and in their environments.

The most preferred qualities for sorghum varieties by men were

§  Grain size

§  Stay-green leaves

§  Strong stems

§  Medium height

§  Seed colour (white)

§  Time to maturity

§  Tolerance to diseases


Votes were hanged on strings for counting

Women made their choices based on:

§ Grain size

§  Panicle size and fill

§  Time to maturity

§  Resistance (tolerance) to drought

§  Resistance (tolerance) to diseases (head smut, leaf rust and leaf blast)

§  Grain colour

§  Strong stems

Undesired varieties were rated by both men and women based on

§  Weak stems

§  Seed Colour (brown)

§  Small seed size

§  Small panicle


Voting was by casting coloured strings in opaque ballot boxes