A farmer in Kainuk, Turkana County harvests sorghum. [Fred Kibor, Standard]

Grain sorghum can be a substitute for Kenya’s staple - maize, which takes longer to grow and is easily affected by drought. 

The sorghum market is huge and is currently expanding as more people seek to diversify their diet from maize. Currently, the cost of a 90kg bag of sorghum ranges from Sh3,000 to Sh5,000.

Traditionally, sorghum is consumed as porridge, ugali or sometimes fermented into alcoholic drinks.

Jacob Muga, a farmer from Siaya County, says some of the major buyers of sorghum in Kenya include Unga Ltd, Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute, learning institutions, hospitals, humanitarian NGOs and Kenya Breweries Ltd.

According to the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organisation, sorghum is one of the underutilised crops in Kenya. Here are some factors to consider during farming.

Ecological conditions

Sorghum is a warm-season crop and thrives in temperatures between 25°C to 32°C. It can tolerate higher temperatures but is sensitive to frost

Sorghum is versatile regarding soil types but thrives in well-drained soils. It can grow in sandy soils, loams, and clay soils. Soil pH should ideally be between 6.0 and 7.5.

Soil preparation

Choose well-drained soil with good fertility. Conduct soil tests to determine nutrient levels and pH. “Plough and prepare the land before planting. You can add compost manure as needed,” says Muga.

Choose a sorghum variety suitable for your region and climate. Consider factors like rainfall patterns and temperature. Sorghum varieties include Kenya Serena, Serena, Gadam and E1291.


Plant sorghum seeds at the beginning of the rainy season. Sow seeds at the recommended depth and spacing. Ensure proper seedbed preparation for good results. Plant sorghum seeds at a depth of 1 to 1.5 inches. Space the seeds about 8 to 12 inches apart in rows, depending on the variety.

Apply fertilisers based on soil test results and incorporate organic matter to improve soil fertility.


Sorghum requires consistent moisture, especially during the critical growth stages. Supplement rainfall with irrigation if needed.

Weed control

Keep the field weed-free, especially during the early growth stages. Use manual or mechanical methods and consider herbicides.


Harvest sorghum when the seeds are fully mature but before they start shattering. Cut the sorghum stalks near the ground.

Harvest sorghum when seeds are hard and difficult to dent with a thumbnail. For forage sorghum, harvest when plants are in the boot stage for optimum quality. Remember to check local agricultural extension services for specific recommendations.