TANZANIA- The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has issued a challenge to Tanzania, urging the nation to increase its production of sorghum to meet the growing global demand for this vital grain.

William Lasway, the Monitoring Officer at the WFP, highlighted the pressing need for heightened sorghum production, revealing that the humanitarian organization aims to purchase a minimum of 200,000 tonnes of sorghum from Tanzania each season.

The WFP’s objective is to secure a significant quantity of sorghum to support humanitarian initiatives in various countries, especially in Sudan, Somalia, and Burundi.

This call for action was made during a special forum held in the capital city, Dodoma, and it attracted a diverse range of stakeholders involved in Tanzania’s sorghum crop, including farmers, buyers, seed producers, and fertilizer sector representatives.

Tanzania has been endowed with a favorable agroclimatic zone and suitable soil for the cultivation of the crop, but much effort is needed to be put in place to assist the farmers to engage into vast and professional production of sorghum,” he observed.

He added that the WFP has been working in collaboration with the government to help local farmers increase their production and productivity in the sorghum sector, ensuring a steady supply of grain in each season.

Mr. Lasway pointed out that many growers still lack reliable access to improved seed varieties, and there is a significant gap that needs to be addressed. Additionally, efforts to enhance the value addition to the crops produced are necessary for the sector’s growth.

Meshack Panga, a Project Officer at Farm Africa, noted that the international organization is running a specific project to scale up sorghum production among farmers in all districts of the Dodoma Region.

Through the robust project, we have so far managed to reach out to a total of 30,000 farmers across the districts and the initiative continues to support the farmers until 2028 when it will phase out,” he expressed.

Mr. Panga also shared that, as a result of the project’s efforts, the price of sorghum has increased significantly, with prices per kilogram rising from TZS200/- to TZS250/- to TZS800/-.

Patric Byeshulilo, an officer from Apeck International Limited, mentioned that his company is actively searching for markets for the crop in different countries. They have secured a market for at least 6,000 tons of sorghum in Burundi.

The Quality Assurance Officer at the Cereals and Other Produce Board of Tanzania (CPB), Mwanahamisi Msangi, revealed that the state-owned board is a major buyer of sorghum produced by local farmers.

During 2022/2023 we purchased a total of 3,000 tonnes and our expectation is to purchase at least 10,000 tonnes come next season,” she expounded.

Ezekiel Noah, an Agricultural and Marketing Officer at the Tanzania Agricultural Seed Agency (ASA), stated that the agency currently has 200 tonnes of improved seeds available for assisting farmers during the current season. The seeds will be offered to growers at a patriotic price of TZS3,000/- (US$1.2) per kilogram.

In her closing remarks, the Dodoma Regional Commissioner (RC) announced that the government in the region has directed each municipal council to allocate 2,000 hectares to support the professional cultivation of sorghum to meet market demand.

To further improve the sector’s performance, Farm Africa is implementing a robust project that aims to introduce Climate-Smart Agriculture techniques to at least 100,000 sorghum farmers in Dodoma. This project is supported by funding from Irish Aid, the Mastercard Foundation, and the World Food Programme.

Despite facing dry conditions in 2023, this project has led to a remarkable 300% increase in sorghum production among beneficiary farmers, with sorghum selling for up to TZS780/- per kilogram, compared to just TZS250/- per kilogram three years ago.

The project has empowered smallholder farmers to transition from subsistence to commercial agriculture, leading to a 30% increase in sorghum farming productivity during its first phase from 2019 to 2022.