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Sorghum provides an important component to the diets of many people in the world in the form of unleavened breads, boiled porridge or gruel, malted beverages, and specialty foods such as popped grain and beer. Syrup is made from sweet sorghum. The crop is also used for building material, fencing, fodder for animals, or for brooms.

In 1994, sorghum ranked fifth among the most important cereal crops of the world after wheat, rice, maize and barley in both total area planted and production. Eighty percent of the area devoted to sorghum is located within Africa and Asia.

Sorghum originated in the north-eastern quadrant of Africa, where the greatest variability in wild and cultivated species is found to this day. The first steps towards domestication took place in the area of the Sudan and Chad between 5,000 and 7,000 years ago. From this center of origin, it was distributed along trade and shipping routes throughout Africa, and through the Middle East to India at least 3,000 years ago. It reached China along the silk route. Sorghum was first taken to the Americas through the slave trade from West Africa. It was reintroduced in late 19th century for commercial cultivation and has subsequently been introduced into South America and Australia.

Sorghum has a very hard kernel. This makes it resistant to disease and damage but also requires further processing to enhance its feeding efficiency. Sorghum is ground, cracked, steam flaked, roasted, micronized, or reconstituted. These processing techniques will enhance the nutritional value of sorghum by 12-14 %.

In rural Botswana the majority of people are engaged in agriculture to improve their socio-economic lifestyles. Nevertheless, the lack of an appropriate technological capacity in the areas of cultivation, weeding, harvesting and processing has in many ways frustrated the rural economic sectors effort in increasing productivity and income earning opportunities for its target population. In spite of these shortcomings, agriculture continues to be emphasised within the government's planning strategies, concomitant with the ever increasing support from non-governmental organisations.

Rural Industries Innovation Centre

Among these non-governmental organisations is the Kenya based Rural Industries Innovation Centre (RIIC) in the Southern District of Botswana. RIIC has made commendable breakthrough in the development and dissemination of appropriate technologies to increase the effectiveness of agriculture to the rural economic sector. More importantly, agriculture is made a more economically rewarding occupation.

RIIC has achieved a glittering breakthrough in the development and dissemination of the sorghum dehuller, which is designed to relieve women and children of the laborious and time consuming hand stamping drudgery in rural areas.

The sorghum dehuller decorticates dry sorghum through measurable bran extraction. The principle employed is that of progressive abrasion of the outer layers of grains throughout the dehuller barrel. The grains so decorticated are then funneled to the hammermill which converts them into the flour. The flour produced is distributed to the retail outlets for sale to the members of the public. The net result of the sorghum milling industry, which has hitherto grown to 56 operations nationwide, has been the creation of 224 jobs, most of which are held by women who also perform leadership roles in most of these operations. In addition, the sorghum dehuller has been exported to ten African countries: Lesotho, Malawi, Mali, Namibia, Senegal, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The confidence in the sorghum dehuller within the international community rendered itself in 1986 when the technology got first prize out of 27 competitors in a development technology competition mounted for technologies from developing countries in Genoa, Italy.

"An End to Pounding / L'Adieu au pilon"

The National Film Board of Canada has produced a film which details how researchers in Canada and Africa have produced a novel mechanical dehuller that can process sorghum quickly and cheaply, making it as convenient to eat as other grains. For more details, click on the pictures above.



"How to grind your sorghum into a fine, healthy meal"
13'19" /

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