International Sorghum and Millet Collaborative Research Support Program (INTSORMIL CRSP)


Date of this Version


Document Type



USAID INTSORMIL/CRSP report (October 20, 2010); vii, 44 p.


U.S. government publication.


Sorghum and millet are a very important source of food and farm income for smallholder farmers, which can be enhanced especially if linked to new markets. These two crops have been widely viewed as minor traditional crops in the Zambian food systems. The two crops were displaced by maize in the 1900s with the opening of the copper mines. However, they remain important food crops for semi-arid areas of the country. In recent years, there have also been new market developments requiring farmers to increase productivity and production. Unfortunately significant productivity enhancements are impeded by low access to improved technologies such as high-yielding seed varieties.

This paper reports the results of a sorghum and millet seed value chain study. Its main objective has been to understand the different actors in the chains, and to identify the factors that determine the observed low level of technology used. Information from 130 farming households, 57 seed dealers, five seed companies, and two research and development institutions was collected with the view to understand their characteristics, key roles, competitiveness, and constraints with respect to the improved seed value chain. Most seed value chain actors play multiple roles, ranging from varietal development, inspection and certification, seed production, processing, marketing, and provision of extension services.

Research results found that yield levels for both sorghum and millet have been stagnant at about 0.5 tons per hectare for over 20 years. Farmers depend too much on farm saved seed for planting the next year. The average seed replacement rate was 13.7 years compared to a three year replacement rate recommended by researchers. Several higher yielding varieties of sorghum and millet, developed in the 1990s, have not been adopted by farmers. The most widely adopted varieties of sorghum (Kuyuma & Sima) and millet (Lubasi) were released in 1989 and 1993, respectively. No new varieties have been released since 1999.

The government maize support programs, such as fertilizer and seed subsidies of 50-60 percent and direct price support have contributed to the expansion of maize production, even in drought prone areas where sorghum and millet are superior crops to grow. The more recent diversification policy, and changes in consumer preferences were found to be some of the factors affecting the competitiveness of the chain. Seed companies identified lack of stable markets and low quantities of improved seed purchases as key constraints in sorghum and millet markets. Constraints faced by seed traders in the selling of improved seed in the area were low quantities of seed purchased by buyers, delayed payments by farmers and stiff competition among traders.

Limited access to input markets, extension services, lack of desired varieties and processing technologies were some of the challenges that farming households faced. In addition, despite the new markets for sorghum in the brewery industry, farmers still view marketing as a challenge. The study recommends developing and offering a range of improved seed varieties to farmers to increase demand, and also focus on initiatives which will link farmers to market opportunities through outreach, institutional improvements and further research.