Female-Owned Agribusiness Provides Sorghum Threshing Services to Kenyan Farmers

Kisumu County, Kenya
Jane with the SL-3 Multi-Crop Thresher

Jane Kisia, is a retired teacher who has been a sorghum commodity broker, entrepreneur, and farmer for over seven years in Kisumu County in Western Kenya, not far from Lake Victoria. She is proud to help over 1,000 farmers, particularly women, who traditionally have harvested sorghum manually, by aggregating their harvest and offering commercial threshing services for greater productivity.

Sorghum is a traditional crop and a common ingredient used to make traditional Kenyan dish called Ugali. A common staple starch, Ugali is like a corn pudding eaten with vegetables and meat. Similarly, sorghum flour is blended with other grains like soybean, peanut to make nutritious porridge flours suitable for school feeding programs to fight micronutrient deficiency for children under five years. Sorghum is also popularly used for commercial and artisan brewing and some farmers, like Jane, use threshed sorghum grain heads to mulch their vegetable gardens for sustainable and eco-friendly farming practices.  

Jane and her employees threshing sorghum.

Jane is a registered grain aggregator with East African Breweries and has long been advocating for farmers to expand their sorghum acreage for commercialized production. However, farmers have remained unconvinced because of the inefficient postharvest yields of manually processed sorghum. Without access to affordable postharvest processing technologies, only about 4-6kg can be processed in an hour, making a 90kg bag of sorghum take days to process. The challenges of this process has resulted in many local farmers reluctant to expand their acreage of sorghum or to stop growing it altogether.

To help farmers to overcome these challenges, Jane had previously leased a thresher but because of the high demand for the thresher, there was often a long-wait period to use it making it difficult to access when needed. When Jane learned of Bountifield’s Mavuno Bora project starting in Kenya, she applied for a loan through Cereal Growers Association, one of Bountifield’s local partners in Kenya, to be able to purchase a multi-crop thresher of her own and expand her fee-for-service threshing operations.

Jane is confident that this thresher will be a game-changer in encouraging farmers to commercialize their sorghum production. The SL-3 Multi-Crop Thresher can process 600kg in an hour, making it 100x more efficient than manual processing. Jane’s business will be able to process (40-60) 90kg bags of sorghum a day, significantly reducing the time and labor of the sorghum postharvest process. 

Karen with the threshed sorghum

“I am sure farmers will commercialize production of sorghum because their major hurdle of threshing and winnowing is taken away by this motorized thresher,” says Jane. “I am happy that I can contribute to improve the lives of women and other family members in Kisumu County.”

Jane’s threshing services will help farmers to increase their incomes through the commercialization of sorghum production while diversifying her own income through her threshing fee-for-service business. She has hired two employees to work as threshing operators. Karen and Linus are two young individuals who were previously unemployed due to  lack of job opportunities in their community. Both are excited to join Jane’s business, gain valuable skills and make an income of their own, all while providing valuable services to farmers in their community.

“My farmers have suffered a lot threshing sorghum manually, labor normally done by women,” says Jane. “With this new motorized thresher, I will free women to have time to take care of their children and attend to other household chores as we assist them with processing their crops in a record time and at an affordable price. I am looking forward to making the lives of women in Kisumu County dignified.”

Jane with her thresher operators, Linus and Karen

Bountifield is proud to partner with Jane and to support the growth and expansion of her sorghum production and marketing activities in Kenya.

The Mavuno Bora project in Kenya is funded by the van Lengerich family.