JKUAT was on Monday April 2, 2012 privileged to host the President of the Chinese Academy of Sciences; Prof. ChunLi Bai, a visit that has increased hopes that the anticipated establishment of a multimillion shillings Botanical Garden and the Sino-African Biodiversity Research Center at JKUAT to foster plant biodiversity conservation research in African countries was close to fruition.
The project to run for the next five years and estimated to cost up to KShs. 1 billion with the Chinese government promising to provide 80 percent of the total budget will tackle a number of research problems with some projected to provide new plants of economic importance to the society. Such plants include those with medicinal and ornamental value, trees for reforestation, and plants for industry, fruits, and cash crops among others.
Speaking at a ceremony in JKUAT, Prof. Bai observed the short stint that his institution had been collaborating with JKUAT had produced encouraging results that he said had seen a number of papers jointly published with scientists from JKUAT and Wuhan Botanical Garden, one of the institutes of Chinese Academy of Sciences. The Chinese official said his academy that had up to 400 institutes and a host of several universities across China was a premier multidisciplinary organization started in the 1950’s shortly after the founding of the Peoples Republic of China with the development of science at the heart of its existence.
The President who is in the country at the invitation of the Minister for Higher Education, Science and Technology, Prof. Margaret Kamar, planted an endangered indigenous tree at the proposed site where JKUAT has set aside 40 acres of land valued at KShs. 0.5 billion for establishment and development of the facility.
On arrival at the University the Chinese Academic was received by top JKUAT officials led by the Chancellor Prof. Francis Gichaga, Council Chairman, Eng. Julius Riungu and Vice Chancellor Prof. Mabel Imbuga. Prof. Gichaga welcomed the Chinese project with JKUAT saying that with be among the 1800 botanical gardens in the world, the importance of the sector plant conservation was now receiving significant attention in the world. Prof. Gichaga however lamented sub-Saharan Africa with ‘only 8 similar gardens with South Africa taking the lions share is lagging behind’. The chancellor hoped the project would be instrumental in boosting the country’s Vision 2030. ‘The proposed botanical garden will be of great importance not only to our researchers but also to our national economy. I am also quite confident that this project will contribute to the realization of the goals contained in Kenya’s development blueprint under Vision 2030’.
On his part, Engineer Riungu praised the intended project arguing that it would supplement his Council’s central role of providing staff development and in the provision of physical facilities. ‘As Council, we face numerous challenges in terms of infrastructure and capacity building. We are therefore glad that the project will address some of these challenges. Indeed I note with satisfaction that the project has factored in the provision of infrastructure and staff training as well as student exchange’.
And the Vice Chancellor Prof. Mabel Imbuga assured the Chinese visitors; JKUAT was keenly waiting for the project’s actualization and added the University had a track record that has seen JKUAT’s successful implementation of similar projects. Prof. Imbuga cited a number of flagships project that JKAUT had successfully undertaken in the past such as the technology transfer training programme of the 1990’s where participants from 14 countries from East, Central and Southern Africa assembled at JKUAT for ‘intensive training in selected applied technologies mainly in food analysis and post harvest technology, water analysis and electrical and electronic engineering’. JKUAT, she told the meeting was also currently implementing two Africa-wide projects won through competitive bids. The two projects, the Pan African University Institute of Basic Sciences and Innovation expected to admit its 100 graduate students in September and the DANIDA funded sorghum agribusiness incubator aimed at commercializing sorghum and its value added products, she said, had been located at JKUAT.