Embracing sorghum farming to improve yields and boost incomes

The World Food Programme (WFP) supports smallholder farmers transition from subsistence farming to farming as a business.

Alice Maro
Mar 8 · 4 min read
Elizabeth Yohana Lenjima removing weeds and other unwanted plants from her sorghum farm. Photo Credit: WFP/Meshack Panga

Elizabeth Yohana Lenjima is a 49-year-old woman from Ibwaga village in Dodoma, Tanzania where she lives with her husband, four sons, and two daughters. She is also a farmer and chairperson of the WIKAZE (don’t lose hope) Farmers Group consisting of 50 members (23 males, 27 females).

Along with her husband, Elizabeth farms sorghum on a two-acre plot of land. Before joining the Irish Aid-funded Climate Smart Agriculture Project (CSAP) in 2018, the couple were only using traditional farming practices to grow sorghum. Their yields were often low, averaging a harvest of three bags (300kg) of sorghum per acre.

“Farming has always been our main source of income, often I sell my products at village markets,” says Elizabeth. “Before becoming a member of CSAP, business wasn’t going so well because of low-quality seeds and high post-harvest losses.”

Implemented by WFP, CSAP focuses on the sorghum value chain in Central Tanzania. The project was designed to help farmers like Elizabeth, who are living in drought-prone areas, to increase productivity, reduce post-harvest losses, improve access to market and finance, boost income levels and increase their resilience to climate change. CSAP has so far benefited 19,906 smallholder farmers, of which 44 percent are women.

Market access

WFP mobilizes farmers into marketing groups — in total 204 farmer organizations have been registered for collective aggregation and marketing. Through her participation in her farmers group, Elizabeth received improved sorghum seed varieties which she planted and harvested seven bags (700kg) per acre. The high-quality products gave her a higher price and access to bigger buyers like Tanzania Breweries Limited.

Elizabeth standing outside her home with her daughter Geegrin and grandson Daniel. Photo Credit: WFP/Helen Lawi.

“By planting quality seeds, I am supplying higher quality produce,” she says. “This has increase my household income and we can now afford to believe that our future looks brighter.”

Elizabeth was trained in seed production. With support from WFP, she managed to grow seeds on two acres and expects to harvest 2000kg of Quality Declared Seeds (QDS) in the coming months. By selling her quality seeds to her fellow farmers, she is expected to make a profit of $2,595 (Sh 6,000,000).

To compliment assistance to smallholder farmers, during the off-season, WFP facilitates income-generating activities for CSAP farmers by supporting the cultivation of vegetables through a simple irrigation technology that uses gravity pumps. WFP and project partner Farm Africa distributed Orange Fleshed Sweet Potatoes vines to Elizabeth for vine multiplications. The vine harvest will begin in March and end in April 2021. Elizabeth is expected to harvest 87 bags which she will then sell to 358 households around her village.

Elizabeth and her daughter Geegrin harvesting OFSP vines to sell to farmers in their village. Photo Credit: WFP/Helena Lawi.

Strengthening agriculture production and nutrition

To meet nutrient requirements, diets need to be more diverse. Crop diversification amongst smallholder farmers is critical to support better nutrition. Promoting crop diversity reduces the risk of climate change, crop-specific disease and the over-supply of a single crop, whilst broadening the range of income opportunities for farmers.

Orange fleshed sweet potatoes are a great source of fibre, vitamins and minerals. Photo Credit: WFP/Thomas Charles Mbaga.

It has been a very busy past year for Elizabeth who has also successfully planted pineapple seedlings and managed to grow papaya trees and grapes vines. She is optimistic that the off-season crops will increase her household income and improve her family’s nutrition as well.

“I would like to encourage women to engage in farming activities,” she says. “Unlike in the past, we have a greater role to play now more than ever before.”

Female farmers from other farmer organizations who have harvested orange fleshed sweet potatoes and vegetables under the project. Photo Credit: WFP/|Thomas Charles Mgaga.

Read more about WFP in Tanzania

World Food Programme Insight

Insight by The World Food Programme

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