Karamoja turns to new sorghum variety to fight food insecurity

Thursday October 28 2021

John Emanio presents the NaroSorg 1 variety on World Food Day. PHOTO | GILBERT MWIJUKE


A recent study by the World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organisation indicated that 30 percent of people living in Karamoja are either in the crisis or emergency phase of acute food insecurity due to poor harvests in 2021 — a result of prolonged droughts and the Covid-19 pandemic.

In addition, the Global Assessment Report (GAR): Special Report on Drought 2021 by the UN states that prolonged droughts are likely to be “the next pandemic” in Africa as the continent faces “exponential collateral damage”.

As climate change takes a toll on food production in Uganda’s Karamoja region, the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries has developed new varieties of sorghum that can tolerate drought, pests and disease.

Hardy crops

“With the current climate change crisis, Karamoja will have to depend more on cereal grains like sorghum and millet because these crops perform well in drier areas,” John Emanio, a research technician at the Ministry of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Research Organisation, told The EastAfrican during the World Food Day celebrations held on October 16.

This year’s World Food Day ran under the theme “Our actions are our future. Better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life”.


Uganda is promoting the growing of cereals because of their potential for nutritional and economic security.

Cereal grains are also favoured because of their tolerance to drought and heat, and the ability to easily adapt to different soil conditions.

Sorghum is rich in vitamins, magnesium, proteins and antioxidants. It can also be used for making bread, cakes, porridge and fermented beverages.

“We have now developed an improved sorghum variety for the Karamoja region called NaroSorg-2. It is high-yielding, drought-resistant, pest and disease-resistant and also matures early,” said Emanio, who was part of the team of crop scientists at the National Semi-Arid Resources Research Institute in Soroti who developed the new variety.

NaroSorg-2 matures in 100 days and has an average grain yield of 2,700 to 3,000 kilogrammes per hectare — compared with the indigenous varieties that mature in 120 days and have an average grain yield of 700 to 800 kg/ha, according to Emanio.

The crop scientists also developed the NaroSorg-1 and Seso-3 variety, which aim to improve people’s economic welfare.

“NaroSorg-1 is good for making beer,” Emanio said. “Seso-3 is basically for export because it’s good for making products such as biscuits and bread. In fact, a lot of it is already being exported to Ethiopia, South Sudan and some Middle East countries.”

To ensure that farmers adopt the new varieties faster, Emanio said they have had to develop sorghum genotypes with desirable attributes. His team works directly with the farmers.

Karamoja, like the rest of Uganda, is heavily dependent on agriculture. Many people engage in subsistence farming.


By focusing on resilient varieties of sorghum, Emanio, and his team are hoping to improve nutrition for the people of Karamoja while boosting the resiliency of their small farms.

"With these varieties, we are optimistic that food insecurity in Karamoja will be no more," he said.