From plough to plate - collaboration delivers results

Research Into Use

Linking poor farmers with new sources of demand for their crops through innovative coalition approach
Validated RNRRS Output. Home List by Audience List by Topic

Sorghum growers are generating new demand for their crop by promoting its use in place of maize in feed formulas. The feed technique was developed in India, where researchers provided farmers with seeds of improved cultivars and taught them better agricultural practices, while nutritionists collaborated with the feed industry to formulate the feed. Finally, farmer associations brought people together to store and bulk grain and negotiate better prices with the industry. The partners produced easy-to-use brochures, training and extension materials and an institutional framework to sustain the advances over the long term. Perhaps more important, they demonstrated the forcefulness of the coalition approach. This knowledge can help in fine-tuning the approach for use with other crops and in other regions.

Project Ref: CPH05:
Topic: 5. Rural Development Boosters: Improved Marketing, Processing & Storage
Lead Organisation: ICRISAT
Source: Crop Post Harvest Programme


  Current Situation
  Lessons Learned
  Impacts On Poverty
  Environmental Impact


Research Programmes:

Crop Post Harvest Research Program (CPHP) and ICRISAT's core funding

Relevant Research Projects:

R Number: R 8267


Partner Institutions

Represented by


International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT)

Dr Belum VS Reddy - Principal scientist (Sorghum Breeding); and

Mr P Parthasarathy Rao, Senior Scientist (Economics)


Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University (ANGRAU), Rajendranagar, Hyderabad 500 030, Andhra Pradesh, India

Dr VLK Prasad, Professor Department of Livestock Production and Management; Dr A Rajashekar Reddy, Senior Scientist; and Dr D Ramachandriah, Principal Scientist


Federation of Farmers Associations (FFA), Shantinagar, Hyderabad 500 028, Andhra Pradesh, India

Mr P Changal Reddy, Honorary Chairman represented by Dr JR Maruthi; and Dr G Raghunatha Reddy


Andhra Pradesh Poultry Federation (APPF), Hyderguda, Hyderabad 500 028 Andhra Pradesh, India

Mr D Sudhakar - General Secretary

Research Outputs, Problems and Solutions:


i)                    Poultry feed formulations with sorghum cultivars available

To standardize the proportion of   sorghum grain in place of corn in poultry feed rations (broilers and layers, as an energy source) by studying its effect on feed intake, body weight, feed conversion ratio, egg production, shank and egg yolk color, egg production, feed cost, etc.  Implications of grain mold severity on productivity and other parameters. Together these studies constitute International Public Good (IPG)

ii)                   Formation of a sustainable farmer-scientist-industry coalition

To develop a coalition of stakeholders involved in sorghum production and supply chain i.e., among researchers, farmers, NGOs, and feed industry for effective linkage from plough to plate.

iii)                 Technology access to the target groups accelerated

To transfer the improved crop production technology in order to enhance the productivity though supply of improved cultivars, easy to use brochures, training and extension activities and institutional framework for technology access.  Increased awareness on use of sorghum in poultry feed through training and demonstrations.

iv)                 Understanding coalition approach as a process. The understanding would help in fine tuning the coalition approach which can then be applied to other crops/regions i.e., generating IPG for wider application.

Poor sorghum growers face the twin problems of weak social capital and inadequate access to markets. Weak social capital restricts their ability to influence market demand for the crop they grow. The project aims to increase sorghum crop productivity by providing seeds of improved cultivars along with improved package of practices to participating farmers. Poultry nutritionists in collaboration with the feed industry would formulate poultry feed (for broilers and layers) with varying proportions of sorghum.   Farmers Federation would group farmers into associations for storing and bulking grain and negotiating bulk sales with industry. To achieve this, the project is exploring innovative institutional arrangements so as to sustain the linkage in the long run.

Types of Research Output:

Please tick one/ more of the following options.

Product Technology Service Process or Methodology Policy Other
  X   X    

Major Commodities Involved:

Sorghum grain

Market linkages through innovative institutional arrangement by following coalition approach for sorghum use in poultry feed. This approach can be suitably adapted, where at present poor market linkage is constraining production of dry land crops/coarse cereals/oil seeds/pulses etc.  

Production Systems:
Explanation of Production Systems

Semi-Arid High potential Hillsides Forest-Agriculture Peri-urban Land water Tropical moist forest Cross-cutting

Farming Systems:

Smallholder rainfed humid Irrigated Wetland rice based Smallholder rainfed highland Smallholder rainfed dry/cold Dualistic Coastal artisanal fishing
        X  dry    

Potential for Added Value: 

(a) Farmer access to markets (R8274/R8498)

(b) Inventory credit schemes (R8114)

(c) Participatory market chain analysis (R8182/R8148)

(d) Institutional learning and change (R8500).


How the outputs were validated:

The project followed an innovative approach of research-farmers-industry coalition that was able to bring together all the stakeholders, and establish market linkages between sorghum farmers and poultry feed manufacturers.

Farmers participating in the project gave a positive feedback stating that there was an increase in sorghum productivity of more than 200 percent as compared to local cultivars grown by them. These findings were corroborated through interviews using a structured questionnaire. Additionally, a post-harvest survey was conducted to understand the farmers' perception regarding the performance of improved sorghum cultivars.  Apart from grain yields farmers highlighted superior fodder yields, resistance to pest and diseases, as the other important traits of improved cultivars. Not just the farmers participating in the project, but other farmers in neighboring villages also agreed to the superiority of improved cultivars with regard to greater grain and fodder productivity as compared to local varieties.  The ICRISAT-private sector seed consortium was also involved in supplying seeds to participant farmers in Year 2 of implementation due to demand from more number of farmers.  The private seed sector will take the lead for large-scale dissemination of seed for sustainable sorghum production after the Project ends. A Steering Committee chaired by the representative from feed industry (Janaki Feeds) was constituted to closely monitor all aspects of Poultry Feed Trials (PFTs) and buying-in of the results by the poultry industry. Based on the perceptions of poultry producers and recommendations of Steering Committee, the poultry nutritionists (from ANGRAU) conducted repeated feed trials ie, part-by-part replacement of maize with sorghum and repeating the trials on commercial layers on the request of the Committee. This helped in faster buy-in of the findings by the industry and poultry federation. The trial results were disseminated to a larger group of poultry producers/feed manufacturers through stakeholders' mini-workshops, which received wide acceptance. The poultry feed manufacturers are convinced about the use of sorghum in poultry feed rations. The above aspects would ensure the role of private sector seed and feed industry in sustaining project activities beyond project life.

In addition, two review teams from DFID independently reviewed the project progress and  implementation and appreciated the achievements after interviewing the farmers and other partners involved in the project.

According to the DFID publication, Journeying from Research to Innovation, March 2006, "the coalition is set to enable the farmers now to get access to the research director." Further, it said "this project enabled the various partners to work formally together for the first time to convert the knowledge into profitable goods."

The success of this project in the pilot area has encouraged donors to upscale the project to more areas. This, perhaps, is the most rigorous validation of the project by experts not involved in the project.  

Where the Outputs were Validated:       

Mahabubnagar and Ranga Reddy districts of Andhra Pradesh with a semi-arid environment were selected for implementation of the project. Both the districts fall under rainfed and dry semi-arid tropics and sorghum is an important crop here. Under the project, small-scale sorghum growers (74 in number) from four villages of selected districts were supplied with the improved sorghum cultivars for planting in rainy season 2003. The crop performance, as pure and as intercrop with pigeonpea systems, was monitored regularly and farmers were advised on the sorghum production practices to be followed for increased productivity. During the meetings with farmers in selected villages, a positive feedback was received with regard to the performance of supplied cultivars over the locally grown sorghums. The grain was bulked cultivar-wise and supplied to feed manufacturers by farmers.  Seeing the enthusiasm and positive response of the farmers, in rainy season 2004 more than 500 small-scale sorghum growers spread over 12 villages in the target districts were willing to participate in the project.  The ICRISAT-private sector consortium was involved in supplying seed to participant farmers in 12 villages.  This ensures the role of private sector seed industry in project implementation.

Current Situation

Who are the Users?

The outputs of sorghum coalition project are being up scaled in a Project on   "Enhanced utilization of sorghum and pearl millet grains in poultry feed industry for improvement of the livelihoods of small scale farmers in Asia" funded by CFC-FAO implemented by ICRISAT. 

The small sorghum growers are accessing improved sorghum cultivar seeds, and improved package of practices, crop management practices, from the Farmers Federation who are important partners in the sorghum poultry feed coalition. Seed producers are active with enhanced market opportunities in the up-scaled areas.  The crop breeders are following the performance of the improved cultivars and constraints in their adoption if any. The poultry growers and feed manufacturers are ready to access the bulk supply of the sorghum and pearl millet grains. Thus, sorghum growers, seed producers, crop and poultry researchers, poultry producers, and feed manufacturers (industry), are the major stakeholders in enhancing their knowledge of the research outputs and applying them at the ground level.  Further, the outputs are useful to the extension workers and line departments of the Government at  ground level. The coalition process learnt in this DFID project is being implemented in CFC/FAO/ICRISAT project on a larger scale involving more stakeholders. For example, bankers are also now part of the coalition.

Where the outputs have been used:

The outputs with sorghum coalition are being up scaled in a CFC/FAO funded project (Project No CFC/FIGG/32) on "Enhanced utilization of sorghum and pearl millet grains in poultry feed industry for improvement of the livelihoods of small scale farmers in Asia" led by ICRISAT, for a period of three years (2005-2008). The project is operational in 3 countries: India (Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra states); China (Liaoning province); and Thailand (Suphan Buri province). Farmers are being trained on grading and scientific storage of the rainy season grain, bulk marketing, and negotiating sales directly with the industry. In addition to sorghum, pearl millet is also included in the project. The project is being implemented in 2 clusters in Andhra Pradesh state (12 villages); 3 clusters in Maharashtra state (15 villages); 1 cluster in China (6 villages) and 1 cluster in Thailand (6 villages). Each cluster consists of about 1000 participating farmers in the first year and this is likely to increase in Years 2 and 3 with more farmers and villages. The outputs of both the projects will be out scaled to other states / provinces after 2007.

Scale of Current Use:

The coalition concept has been used in CFC/FAO funded project to enhance the utilization of sorghum and pearl millet grains in poultry feed formulations. All the coalition partners under the DFID funded project continue to be partners in the expanded project. Additional partners have joined for geographic and vertical spread of the project outputs. The present coalition consists of nine partners in India and three partners each in China and Thailand besides participating farmers.  This signifies buy-in of the coalition approach for achieving common goals. As indicated, use of all the outputs is spreading under the expanded project with more crop and geographic coverage.

Policy and Institutional Structures, and Key Components for Success:

From the conception stage, the project-included all the stakeholders ie,, sorghum-growing farmers, Federation of Farmers' Associations, poultry producers, Poultry Federation, feed manufacturers (Janaki Feeds) and crop research institute (ICRISAT), and poultry research institute (ANGRAU) in all stages of project development and implementation. A series of stakeholder meetings were organized to ensure the active participation of all members at every stage. By the second year of implementation of the project, private sector also took active part by supplying seed of improved cultivars for the project farmers at subsidized prices, which ensures the role of private sector in up scaling the project in future. The poultry producers are also showing interest to partner with sorghum growers by way of supplying poultry manure and purchasing the surplus sorghum produce in bulk quantities. The project also explored institutional arrangements to establish an organic linkage between research, producers and end users (poor consumers & industrial users) that will lead to the overall welfare of poor sorghum growers.

The success of the coalition system is because it provided an opportunity to the members to contribute knowledge in their respective fields, work towards a common goal with clearly defined roles and responsibilities, ability to articulate their problems and prospects, and enthusiasm to work in groups and share synergies.

The coalition system, thus, helped to present the right kind of incentives to benefit poor sorghum farmers, feed manufacturers, poultry producers, and scientists. All partners were also assured of the benefits from this project independently.

    The crop breeder got feedback on the cultivars traits preferred by the farmers.

    The poultry scientists developed new sorghum-based feed formulations for poultry in lieu of maize, which will benefit the poultry producers.

    The poor sorghum farmers benefited from the collaborative help/guidance from researchers, and from improved cultivars cultivation by implementation of the project at grass root level.

    The poultry feed manufacturers/poultry growers benefited from knowledge on poultry feed formulations and assured supply of sorghum grain, an alternative to maize.

This approach can be suitably adapted, where presently poor market linkage is constraining production.

Lessons Learned and Uptake Pathways

Promotion of Outputs:

Presently the sorghum grain use in poultry feed is being promoted in China, Thailand and India. In China, Liaoning Academy of Agricultural Sciences (LAAS), Shenyang, is responsible for promoting use of sorghum in alternative uses in one cluster (6 villages, 1000 farmers) in Liaoning province. In Thailand, in Suphan Buri province a major sorghum growing region, with one cluster (about 6 villages, 900 farmers) are participating  in the project under the coordination of Field Crops Research Institute (FCRI), Bangkok. In India, the project outputs of the DFID funded project are being upscaled in two states namely Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. In Maharashtra three clusters (7 villages, 1200 farmers for each cluster) have been selected in Parbhani and Beed districts. In Andhra Pradesh two clusters (9 villages, 1400 farmers for each cluster) in Mahabubnagar district are involved in the upscaling. The project aims to increase the number of clusters in the third year (2007-08) of implementation.

Potential Barriers Preventing Adoption of Outputs:

         The surplus produced above subsistence needs can be highly variable due to low productivity and uncertain level of production achieved by small-scale producers. 

         Formal market channel does not provide an effective means to industry for purchase of bulk grains of uniform quality, while informal channels may be constrained due to lack of support.

         Smallholders have poor access to improved cultivars suitable for their area and in right time

         Insufficient storage facilities for bulking and storing the surplus produce for collective marketing

         Government policy with regard to maize imports or procurement could adversely affect uptake of sorghum in poultry feed industry.

How to Overcome Barriers to Adoption of Outputs:

         Establishment of infrastructure, such as village level storage structures and grain drying facilities

         Promoting informal/formal institutional arrangements to link farmers and poultry feed manufacturers creating a win-win situation.

         Training of farmers on issues related to grading, bulking and scientific storage to meet the industrial demand

         Strengthening of farmers association in negotiation skills while bargaining with industry for better prices

         Capacity building of farmers associations on input and output supply management system.

         Government policy support should be similar for all coarse cereals (maize, sorghum, pearl millet etc.) with respect to procurement, trade and price support. 

Lessons Learned:

For all the stakeholders, this was their first experience of participating in such a broad-based coalition involving different types of organizations (public sector, NGOs, private sector and farmers) having different skills and expertise (science, farming, commerce). All had learned from working in a coalition that collectively they can work at a faster pace, and achieve their objectives more quickly than they could have done by working in isolation. The 'coalition' allowed capitalizing on the synergies for sharing of skills from different disciplines with each member playing his/ her role in the project.

Lessons learnt

Generic - all partnerships

        Clear objectives

        Flexibility and creativity

        Credible and 'legitimate' representatives of stakeholders

        Matching evidence and communication to the audience

        Monitoring of impact, not just outputs, on indirect as well as direct stakeholders

        Formal networking and informal contacts

        Shared and participatory leadership

Specific - sorghum poultry coalition

          Financial accountability

          Transparent and consensual management

          Collective planning, innovation and learning

          Trust  among partners

          Appropriate division of tasks, stakeholders involved only when it meets their interests

          Regular face-to-face meetings

          Courtesy and the 'personal touch'.

Impacts On Poverty

Poverty Impact Studies:

    • Baseline study of project area
    • Cost benefit analysis of improved and local sorghum cultivars
    • Perceptions of farmers on improved cultivars performance and collective marketing

How the Poor have Benefited (including gender and other poverty groups):

Since improved as well as local sorghum cultivars were grown in similar agro-climatic conditions, the crop yields of both were comparable. The yield of improved sorghum cultivars was higher than that of local cultivars by about 200% in Mahabubnagar and Ranga Reddy districts in 2003 rainy season. Despite higher cost of cultivation, the net returns/ benefit-cost ratio obtained for improved sorghum was higher in both the districts. Also, per unit cost of production (Rs. t-1) was lower than that of traditional varieties in both the districts, ensuring higher profitability to the farmers.

The project impacts will be mainly on the moderate poor (most likely to access new livelihood opportunities and use as a stepping stone out of poverty) together with non-poor and extreme vulnerable poor (assetless or near assetless male & female headed households in rural areas). This includes subsistence farmers who may have small areas for food production.

Regarding impacts, it is too early to measure the impacts at the household level (leave alone at aggregate or macro level) since the spread of technology is limited to farmers participating in the project in selected villages and a few farmers outside the project, that too for two years only.  Secondly, participating farmers have allocated only a small proportion of their land for improved sorghum cultivars, leaving some land for traditional sorghum cultivars as a risk mitigating strategy. Additionally, farmers are growing a number of other crops, which have not been impacted by this project. Hence, in the short run, the impact would be mainly restricted to higher income from growing improved sorghum cultivars and bulk sales to industry. Given the small size of such farms the impacts initially is on financial asset only, that too from a low base.  

Regarding perceptions-majority of the farmers expressed the superiority of improved cultivars with respect to grain and fodder yields. They also expressed that they can obtain better prices through collective marketing and save on marketing and transport cost.

Environmental Impact

Direct and Indirect Environmental Benefits:

Sorghum is a low input crop and developing new market for this crop would support the expansion of low input agricultural production. Increased cultivation of this drought tolerant crop will prevent the land from remaining fallow thereby preventing soil erosion. Thus, positive environmental benefits are perceived.

Adverse Environmental Impacts:

No adverse environmental impacts are foreseen.

Coping with the Effects of Climate Change, or Risk from Natural Disasters:

Being a crop of low resource intensity that meets the multiple needs of farmers like food, feed, fodder and income, the vulnerability of the crop to natural disasters would be potentially risky for the poor. The increased awareness on crop management aspects under the improved package of practices and adoption of cultivars more resistant to biotic and biotic stresses will help the farmers to cope better with crop failures due to external shocks.

Relevant Research Projects, with links to the
Research for Development (R4D) web site
and Technical Reports:

R4D Project Title Technical Report
R8114 Improved food crops marketing though appropriate transport for poor farmers in Uganda
R8148 Community electricity for sustainable livelihoods through public-private partnerships
R8182 Strengthening technical innovation systems in potato-based agriculture in Bolivia: Bolivia Initiative
R8267 Exploring marketing opportunities through a research, industry, and users coalition: sorghum poultry feed
R8274 Improvement of maize marketing through adoption of improved post-harvest technologies and farmer group storage: a case study of Kiboga and Apac districts
R8498 Analysis of promotion and uptake pathways for CPH research
R8500 Institutions for poverty reduction: understanding and enabling institutional changes that promote pro-poor post-harvest innovation


For relevant research projects, with links to further information Go to the list

Geographical regions included:

China, India, Thailand,

View all Audiences or BeneficiariesTarget Audiences for this content:

Crop farmers, Livestock farmers, Processors, Traders,