The Africa Biennial Biosciences Communication (ABBC2023) symposium treated delegates to a Sorghum Festival, an extra-ordinary session held in the form of a refreshing cocktail gala. The objective of the Festival was to showcase importance of sorghum and provide an opportunity for industries, researchers and entrepreneurs to exhibit various sorghum-based initiatives and products that address the challenge of climate change and food and nutrition security in Africa. Sorghum serves as a staple food security crop for millions of people worldwide, particularly in Africa and Asia. It is also used as animal feed and in the production of biofuels. 

The gala provided an interactive platform for sharing interesting snippets about sorghum. Participants also learned about the ‘Feed the Future Striga Smart Sorghum for Africa (SSSfA) project, a new public-private partnership project that utilizes genome-editing technology to develop new sorghum varieties resistant to Striga, a parasitic weed responsible for up to 100 percent yield loss in Africa’s staple cereals. “Striga infests about 100,000 hectares of land and causes 30 percent to 100 percent yield losses in crops; the losses amount to more than US$ 7 billion per year,” said Prof. Steven Runo, Co-Principal Investigator, SSSfA project.

SSSfA’s Principal Investigator Dr. Margaret Karembu challenged stakeholders to synergize their efforts to de-orphanize this indigenous crop. “Sorghum is largely a woman’s crop so putting more investment in improving this crop means we reduce the drudgery of weeding by women and empower them to feed their families and earn more income,” she said.

The participants savored a variety of sorghum foods and drinks that included snacks, beers and cocktails. This was an opportunity to appreciate the importance of the crop for improved food security and better livelihood for our people. Local entrepreneurs, among them Linah Judy Nzambia, a sorghum farmer and Director at Julinza Food Processors, showcased some sorghum products. “At Julinza Food Processors, we bring together sorghum farmers and produce sorghum-derived products such as pilau (a popular East African rice dish), chapati (unleavened flatbread) and cakes. Our income flow has been rising thanks to increased demand of value-added sorghum products. Farmers are excited about this crop,” remarked Nzambia.