Why Sorghum
The ABS Project
Sorghum production in Africa

Africa produces 20 million tonnes out the annual world sorghum production of over 60 million tonnes. Table 1 shows the major sorghum producing countries of Africa. Sorghum production takes place across the continent, with the northern African countries of Nigeria, Sudan, Ethiopia and Burkina Faso accounting for nearly 70% of Africa’s production.

Table 1: Countries in Africa with an annual sorghum production of at least one hundred thousand tonnes of sorghum37


Production (tonnes x 103)

Nigeria 7 081 (33.8)*
Sudan 4 470 (21.4)
Ethiopia 1 538 (7.3)
Burkina Faso 1 372 (6.6)
Egypt 862 (4.1)
Tanzania 736 (3.5)
Niger 656 (3.1)
Mali 517 (2.5)
Chad 497 (2.4)
Cameroon 450 (2.1)
Uganda 423 (2.0)
Mozambique 314 (1.5)
Ghana 280 (1.3)
South Africa 211 (1.0)
Rwanda 175 (0.8)
Benin 165 (0.8)
Togo 141 (0.7)
Senegal 140 (0.7)
Kenya 133 (0.6)
Zimbabwe 103 (0.5)
Somalia 100 (0.5)

*Percentage of Africa’s sorghum production

Table 2 shows that sorghum constitutes a great part of the total cereal production in the selected countries.  Sudan produces the greatest amount of sorghum as compared to other cereals.  With the exception of Rwanda and Cameroon, this group of countries is situated in the Sahelian region of Africa, which is prone to long periods of no rainfall.  Hence, sorghum is the cereal of choice as it is tolerant to long periods of drought.

Graph 1: A comparison of sorghum production to total cereal production in 5 African countries

Comparison of sorghum and other staples

  1. Sorghum is self-pollinated and produces heads over a longer time period because tillers develop over several weeks.  Consequently, it can endure drought periods and still produce seed.
  2. An optimum relationship between plant population and moisture supply is unimportant with respect to sorghum. 
  3. Sorghum has long growing cycles (to make best use of infertile soils) and resistance to insects, moulds and bird pests due to the tannins which are especially bitter for pests to ingest.
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