Sorghum goes pop: Success stories from a Nigerian initiative

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Have you heard of ‘pop’ sorghum or ‘diet’ sorghum flour?  If you haven’t, you are missing updates on an ancient grain that is gaining popularity in Nigerian markets and in nearby regions as well. Industries with guidance from researchers have picked up suitable varieties to manufacture ready-to cook flours (plain, composite, diet and confectionery), for use in breweries and as animal feed. This kind of an outcome was possible through an initiative that is now five years old and works across the sorghum value chain from farmers to markets through innovation platforms.

The beneficiaries of the initiative – Sorghum Outreach Program of ATASP (Phase I) –  are farmer and processor groups, farmer input/service supplier groups, fabricators, marketers and transporters, seed companies, unemployed youth, training participants, policy makers and people influenced by market information services.

The program’s strategy was to deliver a package of practices that included raising awareness on improved sorghum varieties, building capacity of farmers through good agricultural practices, introducing processing and machine fabrication to provide avenues for unemployed youth and to improve industry interface for uptake of the sorghum produced by farmers. For the last quarter of 2019, a range of activities and training programs were implemented to achieve project targets.

Raising awareness on sorghum among farmers, consumers, communities and policy makers through fairs and training programs was a priority. Visitors flocked the ICRISAT promotional stall at the National Agricultural Show and Seed Fair. Seed of improved varieties were on display and demos held on the use of small-scale agricultural machinery such as the stover crusher. Visitors also tasted sorghum products like pop sorghum, cake and doughnuts. Many were interested in sorghum product development. A total of 400 posters, manuals and booklets were distributed. The program distributed planters, weeders, threshers and choppers and agro-inputs (510 kg of improved sorghum seed and 63 bags of fertilizers) as prizes to groups that performed well during the year.

The local media covered the event extensively. More than 25 programs were on local radio and television channels in English and Hausa languages during 2019.

Building farmers’ capacity through trainings and field days is a time-tested practice. A hands-on training on safe use of agro-chemicals was organized for youth farmers and extension agents in three Staple Crop Processing Zones (SCPZs). Information on seed treatment, pesticides, insecticides and fertilizer usage was shared. A demo on the use of neem leaves and oil as pesticides against fall armyworm and stem borer was held in one SCPZ. The adoption of this readily affordable, effective and environmentally friendly alternative is expected to reduce the extra cost of purchasing conventional pesticides. About 1,241 people participated (517 were women) in the training aimed to ensure standardization of best practices and exploit potential for income generation and job creation.

Farm field days for mid-season and end-season evaluation showcased improved production technologies as well as improved sorghum varieties deployed in the region. The mid-season field days empowered farmers and community members through information sharing on where to acquire improved sorghum seeds.

The field days for end-season evaluation at national and zonal levels led to increased market opportunities and greater farmer-to-farmer exchange of knowledge on improved seeds for increasing sorghum productivity. The events served as platforms for showing achievements by farmers who hosted demonstration plots and followed Good Agricultural Practices.

About 2,357 participants (741 women) attended the events.

Trainings on processing and packaging farm produce were conducted especially for women and youth (it was part of the curriculum of government-run schools).

A 5-day training workshop focused on the use, maintenance and fabrication of small- and medium-scale agricultural machinery used in sorghum cultivation and post-harvest handling. Trainees learned to construct and assemble a fabricated winnower, hammer mill and multi-crop thresher. There were two such trainings with 30 participants in each, representing equally all the four SCPZs. Close to 616 beneficiaries attended the stover crusher demo. Use of crushed stover as animal feed provided a win-win for farmers and herders.

Improving industry interface with flour millers resulted in bringing out packaged sorghum flour in Nigeria. It came with added shelf life due to techniques developed by the millers. Samsorg 17, Samsorg 45 and Samsorg 47 suited millers while CSR-01 and CSR-02 were preferred by brewers. Many other new products are in the pipeline.

Given that barley imports are high in the country, policy makers were asked to intervene to revive the dwindling demand for sorghum among breweries. Alternatively, off-takers in Niger and Kano states agreed to source sorghum from all over Nigeria for brewing and confectionery purposes. Three Innovation platforms that were set up established linkages with major sorghum industrial markets.

The activities and trainings mentioned were for the period October-November 2019.

Read more about ICRISAT work in Nigeria on

(L) Participants at the workshop on machine fabrication. (R) Farmers attend a field day.

Project: Nigeria – Agricultural Transformation Agenda Support Program – Phase 1 (ATASP-1)

Donor: African Development Bank Program through IITA

Partners: National Centre for Agricultural Mechanization (NCAM), Ilorin-Lokoja – Highway Idofian, Kwara State, Nigeria and ICRISAT

CGIAR Research Program: Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals (GLDC)

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