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Sorghum value chain agribusiness incubator to build market links for Kenyan smallholder farmers


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Incubatees of the Sorghum Value Chain Development Consortium with Dr William Dar and partners from FARA-UniBRAIN at the launch of the agribusiness incubator in Nairobi, Kenya.
Photo: ICRISAT

Sorghum smallholder farmers in Kenya can now look forward to better entrepreneurship and agribusiness opportunities and become stronger players in the value chain with the launch of the Sorghum Value Chain Development Consortium (SVCDC).

“Market-oriented agriculture is the most efficient way to solve the issues pertaining to small and marginal farmers of Africa. Income from marketed produce will enable farm families to purchase more food and farm inputs. This will further raise farm productivity, kicking off a series of investments that bring about local and national economic growth and creating a self-reinforcing pathway to prosperity of the agricultural sector,” ICRISAT Director General Dr William Dar said during the launch of SVCDC in Kenya on 14 March.

The Agri-Business Incubation (ABI) program of ICRISAT’s Agribusiness and Innovation Platform (AIP) has facilitated the establishment of the SVCDC, an agribusiness incubator that will work along the sorghum value chain, at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture & Technology (JKUAT). SVCDC is one of the six agribusiness incubators being established under the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa’s initiative on Universities, Business and Research in Agricultural Innovation (FARA-UniBRAIN) project with mentoring support from ICRISAT.

“The establishment of agribusiness incubators like SVCDC is significant coming at a time when the Government of Kenya is initiating steps to promote entrepreneurs in agriculture, and ensuring food security,” said the chief guest at the launch, Ms Sisilia Karoke, Principal Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Government of Kenya. She also highlighted that breweries in the East African region are consuming large quantities of value-added products of sorghum, thereby creating a large demand for the crop. She also thanked ICRISAT for its commitment and contributions to the agriculture system in the country.

Prof Christine Onyango, Associate Professor and Deputy Principal, Taita Taveta University College, Kenya and Chair of the SVCDC Board, briefed the guests on the consortium’s involvement in creating agribusiness enterprises along the sorghum value chains through the 4Fs: Food, Feed, Fuel and Fiber. This, she added, would benefit the stakeholders through training and capacity building, advisory services and technical backstopping through products and services.

Prof Mabel Imbuga, Vice Chancellor, JKUAT, emphasized that SVCDC will promote entrepreneurs in the sorghum value chain by deriving strength from all the partners of the Agribusiness Innovation Incubator Consortia (AIIC). FARA-UniBRAIN Facility Coordinator, Mr Alex Ariho highlighted the unique partnership between UniBRAIN and its sub-regional partners in different value chains in Africa.

Dr Dar, in his special address, congratulated FARA for its commendable activities in helping small and marginal farmers involved in sorghum cultivation through SVCDC. He also thanked the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) and applauded the efforts of UniBRAIN for their commitment to the development of agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa.
Mr SM Karuppanchetty, Chief Operating Officer, ABI, reiterated that agribusiness incubators serve as an excellent platform to bring together all the stakeholders and develop an agricultural innovation system.

Partners in the Africa AIIC include the African Network for Agriculture, Agroforestry and Natural Resources Education (ANAFE), Pan African Agribusiness and Agro Industry Consortium (PanAAC), Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA), West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF/WECARD), the Centre for Coordination of Agricultural Research and Development for Southern Africa (CCARDESA), and the AIP-ICRISAT under the FARA-UniBRAIN project. ABI-ICRISAT is currently handholding and mentoring six AIICs under FARA-UniBRAIN in Kenya (SVCDC), Uganda (ABP & CURAD), Zambia (AgBIT), Ghana (CCLEAR), and Mali (WAARI).