Farmers validating and promoting sorghum varieties across regions

BENEFIT-ISSD Ethiopia facilitates learning about variety suitability and farmers’ preferences across regions. Through participatory methods, farmers lead the testing and validation of varieties, with their experiences guiding variety development and deployment. 

There is often an assumption that sorghum varieties released in other regions of Ethiopia are not adaptable to Tigray agro-ecologies and hence not preferred by Tigrayan farmers. To test this assumption on suitability, ISSD Ethiopia’s Tigray Unit conducted an evaluation of a large number of released sorghum varieties from the Melkasa Agricultural Research Center in Oromia and the Sirinka Agricultural Research Center in Amhara.

These sorghum varieties were tested by 200 Tigrayan farmers (of which 100 were female) through crowdsourcing and participatory varietal selection methodologies. The process revealed that some of the released varieties performed well in Tigray. These varieties were hence selected and are now well promoted by many farmers for wider scaling-up and adoption.

Once such farmer is Mekonen Aregay, who lives in Deguadugugni, Tabia Selam, Asgede-Tsmbla District in the northwestern part of the Tigray region. Farming is a means of livelihood for him and his family. He shares his experience on improved sorghum seed varieties using the crowdsourcing.

“Our farming system was traditional before. We were using seeds from our traditional store called a Gotera. As a result, we were not benefiting from our efforts. We were getting low quality and poor yield. The grain was also not preferred in the market.

Nowadays after receiving training on crowdsourcing from Mekelle University (MU) (ISSD Ethiopia implementation partner ) in the last one year we were trained to separate which is seed and grain to increase our crop production. Due to this training we became more aware to identify seed and grain. We kept seed and grain in a separate place or Gotera. In addition to the use of improved seeds, we used fertilizer and animal manure. Technically, we plough the farm land three times before sowing and the fourth ploughing during sowing.  

We practice 15 centimetres spacing between the plants and we got an encouraging yield. What I was interested in with the intervention of MU was that the deployed seed varieties are early maturing even with low rainfall. Comparing to the landraces, they are drought resistant. I remember that we visited the varieties sown in 2017 at Hitsats Tabia farmers’ training centre. We took this good lesson from this experience sharing and applied it on our farm.

In July 2017 we planted the improved sorghum seed varieties and it was a little bit late. MU-ISSD gave me three different packages of sorghum seed verities. The varieties were prepared to be planted on three different plots keeping the recommended spacing. I applied DAP during sowing and UREA at the stage of knee height. There was programed follow up and management according to the training delivered. For instance, I weed the plots three times. As result, encouraging yield was obtained. The stalks and leafs of the varieties are good and palatable as animal feed.

As the stalk is short it is also easy to harvest. In terms of labour comparatively to the formers varieties it demands only half number of labourers. Numerically, if local varieties demand ten labourers, the improved varieties need only five. They have white colour, sweet taste, soft and attractive to look at and good for human consumption as well.

MU-ISSD experts told us to share our experience and the improved sorghum seed varieties at least to five farmers. Based on this given advice, I already gave to five farmers. Some of the farmers who took the varieties are from other villages. I am also ready to give to other farmers.

The dissemination of improved seed varieties can be attained through combined effort.  As MU has reached us with these improved varieties, we have also a duty to share these to other farmers in order to scale up the sorghum varieties to a wider community.”