Dual-purpose sorghum for both grain and bio-ethanol would be preferred to maize and sugarcane for energy production amid concerns for food insecurity and drought in southern Africa. Currently, such varieties are not available and stakeholder requirements have not been determined. Therefore, the views of stakeholders from the smallholder farming sector, industry and the academia were solicited as a first step towards setting the agenda for breeding dual purpose cultivars. Both formal and informal surveys were conducted in marginal areas in Zimbabwe, while the non-farmer stakeholders were interviewed in Zimbabwe and South Africa. It was derived that small-scale farmers have limited knowledge of bio-ethanol production, especially from sorghum stalks. However, the non-farmer stakeholders were aware and largely optimistic of the technology, an observation attributable to better access to information and experience from the sugarcane industry. All stakeholders acknowledged the potential benefits of dual-purpose sorghums in marginal environments with farmers willing to adopt them, and with encouraging views from the other stakeholders, that current sugarcane processing plants can be adjusted to handle sorghum stalks. Nonetheless, it was also perceived that adequate production could be hampered by seasonal supply of stalks because sorghum is a summer crop, and low grain productivity of current varieties ranging between 0.5 and 1.3 t ha-1. This is further compounded by unavailability of farmers’-preferred cultivars. The study indicated that, among other traits, farmers’ “ideal” variety should combine high grain yield potential with early to intermediate maturity and high stem sugar content. Unfortunately, these traits are believed to be negatively correlated or mutually exclusive such that improvement of one trait would compromise another. In addition to challenges of product design, improvement of rural infrastructure and access to capital by farmers is crucial for effective exploitation of dual purpose sorghum varieties to provide sufficient food and bio-energy. Above all, stakeholders concurred that successful implementation of the dual purpose sorghum technology would impact positively on food security, environment and rural economies.
Key words: Bio-ethanol, dual-purpose sorghum, grain, stakeholder survey, stem sugar.
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