Gov’t to Tap into Academia to Achieve Food Security

Prof. Boga unveils the plaque for the Agricultural Lab Extension Renovation Project.

The Kenya Government has placed a lot of emphasis on agricultural productivity and food and nutrition security as espoused under the Big Four Agenda — and it is keen to tap into the existing expertise in academia to support the attainment of the country’s development aspirations.

The Principal Secretary for Agriculture and Research, Ministry of Agriculture, Prof. Hamadi Boga revealed this during the official groundbreaking ceremony of the Ksh. 60-million Renovation and Extension of the Agriculture Laboratory Building at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), Monday, October 7, 2018.

The facility being funded by JICA through the AFRICA-ai-JAPAN project, Prof Boga noted, will foster capacity of JKUAT to undertake applied teaching and research towards the development of our country and “will add to the national capacity to drive knowledge-based decision making in the agricultural sector.”

He noted that JKUAT has been in the forefront of quality training, research and innovation and technology transfer in Kenya. “Currently, JKUAT is a lead institution in the operationalization of the one-million-acre irrigation scheme at Galana Kulalu,” Prof. Boga stated.

Prof. Boga and  Prof. Kanyari break the ground to signal the construction of the new facility. 

According to the Prof. Boga, agricultural research remains an important aspect of the country’s desire to realize food security and socio-economic transformation, and challenged “research organizations in Kenya to engineer novel technologies, processes and expertise that can hoist Kenya’s productivity. He cited “mechanization, value addition, crop protection and quality seeds” as areas where much effort is still required.

He appreciated the Government of Japan for the unwavering support it has extended to the people of Kenya through JKUAT and the Pan African University. “As a government, we remain committed to such utilitarian partnerships and will extend requisite support to facilitate smooth implantation of joint projects,” he said.

The Chairman of Council, Prof. Paul Njuki Kanyari, who was accompanied by Council Members, Ms. Bertha Dena, and Mr. Peter Okwanyo, acknowledged JICA for supporting JKUAT, saying the Agriculture Laboratory Extension Renovation project will play a significant role in transformative research and teaching at JKUAT and PAUSTI while easing pressure on existing laboratories and classrooms.

Prof. Kanyari said, besides infrastructure support, JICA has supported human capacity building for JKUAT staff in Japanese universities and research organizations. The beneficiaries, he observed, “have added much value to the University’s quality teaching, research and innovation agenda.”

Prof. Boga (third from left) makes his remarks.

The Council Chair said last year, JICA handed over to the university two facilities — the innovation Prototyping and Invention Centre (iPIC) and the Small Animal Facility for Research and Innovation (SAFARI) — whose utilitarian output can be attested to from a number of innovation research activities currently being undertaken by staff and students at JKUAT and PAUSTI.

He appealed to the Government of Japan to consider supporting Phase II of the Africa-ai Japan Project for the benefit of Africa and Japan.

In her address, the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Victoria Ngumi said the upcoming three-floor Agricultural Laboratory Building will give rise to a Centre of Excellence that will support agricultural and biotechnology research, and will be home to a number of thematic laboratories, classrooms as well as office spaces.

Prof. Ngumi making her remarks

“Besides supporting applied innovation research, the new building will substantially ease the pressure on teaching and research infrastructure that the university is currently experiencing,” Prof. Ngumi observed.  She further reported that the AFRICA-ai-JAPAN Project has in the last five years injected Ksh. 50 million to support over 100 innovation research projects that have significantly enhanced the capacity of JKUAT as a formidable public institution in providing sustainable solutions to the country’s development agenda.

Prof. Ngumi is optimistic, the new Agricultural Laboratory Building will reposition JKUAT as reference point for agricultural innovation research towards realizing the food security pillar of the Big Four Agenda.

Those who spoke at the function included; Deputy Vice Chancellors: Prof. Mary Abukutsa, Prof. Otoki Moirongo, Prof. Bernard Ikua; Representative from the Embassy of Japan in Kenya, Ms. Yui Takashima, who said JKUAT is a symbol of strong relations between Kenya and Japan, and hailed the extension and renovation of the agriculture laboratory facility as “a positive step for the future.”

A section of the gathering during the meeting.

JICA Senior Representative, Shinjiro Amameishi, welcomed the project (set to be completed in nine months) which he said, illustrated JICA’s focus on Science, Technology and Innovation.  He urged the contractors to ensure high standards of security and safety as well as timely delivery of the project. The event was also graced by Africa-ai-Japan representatives: Prof. Shinjiro Shiomi and Sachiko Oda, Masahito Miyagawa (JICA), and the contractors (Gokul Builders  Limited), among others.