Inclusion, labor rights and agronomy meet for a beer

Sorghum beer
Better sorghum harvests are good news all round


Sorghum beer is popular in Kenya. Breweries are big potential customers for smallholders. But crop volume and quality need to rise. One of our programs is helping – and promoting the success of women and people with disabilities.  

“GLP-IF” is a program funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) that aims to assist smallholders in Kenya. Our local team (SFEA) is a partner. “The five-year program has two main objectives”, explains Monitoring & Evaluation Officer Jane Chapia. “One is to help farmers get access to good inputs, advice and other services, and to companies buying produce for higher-value markets. The other is to ensure that the companies pay close attention to inclusion and labor rights.” The services for smallholders include business finance; insurance is planned as well. GLP-IF therefore also helps strengthen the resilience of farm households.

A special focus for SFEA here is sorghum. In Kenya, the main higher-value market for this cereal is brewing. A crucial customer in GLP-IF is East African Breweries Limited (EABL). “They provide guidance on the quality requirements, and what those mean for both cultivation and aggregation”, Jane adds. “They also pay smallholders a stable premium price.”

One of Kenya’s sorghum-growing counties is Homabay. Yields there are usually low, however. In 2021, the average per acre was 623 kilos. “But some farmers were getting as few as 250”, reports Jane. As well as quality standards, GLP-IF must therefore also address quantity issues. Thanks to training on Good Agricultural Practices, yields have steadily increased in 2022 and 2023. The training covers topics such as seed rate, spacing and soil health. Demonstration plots take the farmers through various crop stages. 

Quantity is not just about yield, however. Breweries also need lots of suppliers. GLP-IF aims to raise the number of smallholders selling to KBL. The program particularly encourages farmers with disabilities to get involved. In the first year, only 178 Homabay farmers engaged. 66 had disabilities. In year 2, these figures shot up. “More than 1100 farmers participated, of whom 351 had disabilities”, says Jane. “Yields per acre also rose significantly, reaching 819 kilos. To their delight, farmers with disabilities did even better, with an average of 829.”

Our team also keeps a close eye on women’s empowerment. Thanks to the training, female smallholders with disabilities are now growing about 823 kg/acre in Homabay and Migori Counties. Overall, women in the program are getting an average of 836. “But we’re not stopping there”, declares our Kenyan Agriservices head, Teddy Nyanapah. “In the third year we want farmers with disabilities to be 50% of all the women involved; the aim is for them to grow 950 kilos per acre.” Support here comes from Kenya Female Advisory Organisation (KEFEADO), an NGO specializing in gender parity. The farmers are recruited by local Farmers’ Hubs managers – the main requirement is a willingness to participate in capacity-building and other activities. 

“GLP” stands for Global Labor Program: Workers’ rights along the value chain are another focus. The Central Organization of Trade Unions (COTU-K) is a partner. COTU promotes workers’ education, articulates their views, and advocates for better labor policies. “In this program, it informs the recruited farmers about labor unions and the protection of workers’ interests”, Teddy adds.