KALRO-Katumani improving sorghum productivity in arid and semi-arid lands

Kamene Kisilu and Luvai Mutisya, Photograph by Atabachi Ayemba

In most sub-Sahara Africa, insects including bollworm (Helicoverpa armigera[Hubner.]) and birds cause high yield loss of Sorghum bicolor(L.) grain in field if no control options are applied. KALRO through its Centre at Katumani mandated to carry out research and socioeconomic development in arid and semi arid lands (ASAL) under the auspices of the European Unions’ ARPS Project has, in a participatory manner with selected farmers, carried out field studies to find solutions to these challenges. Among the approaches used are those practiced by farmers and jointly improved by farmers and KALRO.


Bollworm damage on sorghum at soft                  Sorghum damaged (attacked) by birds 
dough grain stage                                                 at hard dough grain stage


To ensure that knowledge, information and experiences gained are widely shared and adapted to different regions, the Project routinely sensitises farmers in different parts of the mandate counties of its improved technologies.

One such event was in a series of field visits in Makueni (Itangine in Kampi-Mawe), Kitui (Ithookwe) and Machakos (at Kambi-ya-Ndeke) Counties of the semi-arid eastern Kenya on the ravages caused by different species of birds and bollworms on sorghum between 11 and 14 July 2016. During the visits, farmers were visually shown different types of sorghums and destructive bollworms and birds, which they very quickly identified, and possible ways of avoiding the damage caused by the pests.


Gadam and KARI Mtama 1 Sorghum                            Framer training at Kithimani on: sorghum 
varieties soft dough stage for harvest to                        early harvest to prevent bird damage.
prevent bird damage 

Eighty-four farmers in Kitui, Makueni and Machakos (Kithimani) have expressed desire to go back to sorghum production for food security and increased farm incomes.