ISAAA AfriCenter in partnership with Addis Ababa University and Bio and Emerging Technology Institute (BETin) held a sorghum value chain stakeholder net-mapping workshop from March 30 – 31, 2023 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The aim of the workshop was to identify and map out key stakeholders that will impact uptake and commercialization of improved sorghum varieties currently being developed under the Striga Smart Sorghum for Africa (SSSfA) project. This was part of the project’s focus on nurturing an enabling environment for genome editing.

It emerged during the workshop that marketability of sorghum is a big challenge in Ethiopia as only about one-tenth of the produce is commercialized with over 70 per cent used for home consumption. It was also reported that Striga is a major constraint to sorghum production in the country as it causes more than 30 per cent yield loss. Ethiopia loses millions of dollars annually due to Striga infestation on sorghum, one of the country’s staple cereals.

Enhancing collaboration among sorghum value chain actors and encouraging active involvement of the private sector were among key recommendations proposed in addressing these overarching challenges. “Establishing collaboration with the private sector and engaging them on the huge potential of sorghum as a commodity crop will increase demand for the crop’s yield,” said Prof. Tileye Feyissa of Addis Ababa University.

Consumer consumption behaviour was also identified as a major problem towards commercialization of sorghum in the country. In order to cultivate positive consumer perceptions, stakeholders proposed development of a national awareness creation program for public sensitization on sorghum’s enormous value and utilization in diverse industries. 

Stakeholders at the workshop further recommended development of a sorghum utilization policy that will revitalize the country’s sorghum program by positioning this cereal as a key food security crop that should never be wished away. A clarion call by majority of stakeholders was a need to push the crop among the top priority crops in the country.

The Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research expressed willingness to collaborate with SSSfA project to support improvement of research capacity and adoption of genome-edited sorghum in the region. 

Through a rigorous and highly participatory session, the stakeholders defined essential linkages among actors and described how they will potentially impact adoption of Striga smart genome-edited sorghum. The data from this workshop will be used in development of a national strategy for engaging sorghum stakeholders in the country.

Twenty-five (25) stakeholders comprising heads of national research institute and regulatory agencies, senior sorghum researchers, university scholars, breeders and seed associations took part in the exercise. The workshop was also attended by Dr. Yirgalem Gebremeskel of USAID-Ethiopia. Program Biosafety Systems also participated in the workshop.