The Year that Was: A recap of events that shaped JKUAT in 2019

Vice Chancellor, Prof. Victoria Wambui Ngumi (centre) explains to the President Uhuru Kenyatta how the new innovative urban garden works during the Nairobi International Trade Fair

As we begin the year 2020, we wish to recognize the fact that, in 2019, the University made outstanding strides and has great fond memories.

The year 2019 saw JKUAT become the most preferred University in the country for the second year running; emerged the Best University at the Nairobi International Trade Fair; assembled and supplied digital tablets for the 2019 national census. It was also the year the university was selected by World Intellectual Property Organization and Africa Regional Intellectual Property Organization, to be the driver for Intellectual Property Policy in Africa.

Research

JKUAT has, since its inception, been at the forefront in fostering a culture of research and innovation among students and faculty. Year 2019 was no exception. A study spearheaded by Prof. Daniel Sila, indicated that nearly half of the maize millers in Kenya do not add essential minerals and vitamins to their flour products, a legal requirement.  To curb non-compliance, the food fortification project offered free sample analysis for both maize and wheat flour to local millers through the Kenya National Food Fortification Reference Lab based at JKUAT.

Dr. Paul Kinoti, developed commercial products from bio snail products including bio snail processed meat, caviar, bio snail cream and soap for cosmetics, pharmaceutical and skin care products. Snail is an important resource, and the research has laid a foundation to explore ways to utilize snail products for health and economic value to farmers.

Amaranth stakeholders visit the Indigenous vegetables project at the JKUAT demonstration farm

The year also saw the push for the African Indigenous Vegetables (AIVs) as a vehicle of alleviating malnutrition and poverty in Africa. The AIV project led by the Principal Investigator, Prof. Mary Abukutsa recognized that concerted efforts from stakeholders was instrumental in the commercialisation of AIVs and sensitization of communities about the nutritional vegetables with relation to income generation and high nutritional value for food security.

The African Union-african innovation-JKUAT And PAUSTI Network (AFRICA-ai-JAPAN) project second phase got the green light for additional five years, beginning, June 2020. The second phase of the project aims to establish educational and research institutions of Science Technology and Innovation to develop human resources and respond to practical needs through collaboration with the communities, industry and higher education institutions.

Climate change has been a major threat to food security across the world and agriculture sector  stakeholders have been urged to be in the frontline in promoting climate smart agriculture and trigger action against climate change. To enhance climate smart agriculture research, JICA through AFRICA-ai-JAPAN project donated greenhouse facilities and equipment valued at Kshs. 10,126,700 under a project dubbed: “Dissemination of Japanese Technologies on Greenhouse Horticulture for Local Farmers’ Sustainable Farming.” The project was implemented by JKUAT in collaboration with Wago, a Japanese based company, focusing on the production of Japanese strawberries and cherry tomatoes for the Kenyan market.

Mr. Ben Momanyi a passionate vermiculturist (left), IBR and Meru County Staff inspect the vermicompost procured by Meru County

The Institute of Biotechnology Research (IBR) undertook the training of farmers on vermiculture; the rearing of worms in order to use them to convert organic waste into fertilizer, commonly known as vermicompost and vermifluid (worm juice). In 2019 Meru county government decided to empower the county’s small scale farmers through the venture. The county purchased 1000 kilograms of vermicompost at a price of Kshs. 2,500 per kilogram to catalyze the adoption of organic farming in Meru County.

Academic

JKUAT is guided by a clear vision aimed at projecting the institution as a University of Global Excellence in Training, Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship for Development. On the academic front, JKUAT standing as a regional center of training in 2019 was affirmed following the approval and accreditation of academic programmes by various accreditation and professional bodies.

The Engineering Board of Kenya gave a nod to BSc. Marine Engineering and BSc. Mining and Mineral Processing Engineering making JKUAT the only university in Kenya accredited to offer the two programmes.

Similarly, the Commonwealth Association of Architects (CAA) also validated Bachelor of Architectural Technology, Bachelor of Architectural Studies, and Bachelor of Architecture programmes offered at the School of Architecture and Building Sciences. The Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (M.B., Ch.B.) degree programme was also accredited by the Medical Practitioners and Dentists Council (MPDC). The nod from the regulatory body was followed by the graduation of the inaugural cohort of 30 JKUAT Medicine students in November.

The various accreditation repositions JKUAT as a key source for experts in the various professional fields.

Prof. Muigai gives a public lecture/File Photo

Appointments

The year saw JKUAT staff join various local and international committees and boards to provide expertise and knowledge. Prof. Anne Muigai, a Professor of Genetics joined the World Health Organisation (WHO) advisory committee on developing global standards for governance and oversight of human genome editing.

Prof. Bancy Mati, Director, JKUAT’s Water Research and Resource Center (WARREC) was appointed by the Bureau of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) to serve as a member of the Steering Committee of the High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE) for a period of 2 years.

JKUAT students’ fraternity were not left behind. Leah Wambui Njau, Bachelor of Science in Horticulture student, was among the 400 Thought for Food (TFF) Ambassadors selected globally to serve for a period of one year ending May 31, 2020, as Delphine Nyaboke, Bachelor of Science in Electrical and Electronic Engineering student, bagged Government Outcomes Labs (GOlab) ambassadorship in Italy for the 2019 edition.

Back home, three dons; Prof. Losenge Turoop, Dr. Susan Mambo and Dr. Joseph Birindu; were appointed to boards of State Corporations to serve for a period of three years with effect from October 16, 2019. Prof Losenge was appointed to be the Chairperson of the Uwezo fund Oversight Board, Dr. Mambo, Chairperson Environmental Health Department was appointed and Dr. Birindu, Lecturer Food Science and Technology Department were appointed as board members of the Youth Enterprise Development Fund.

Gladys meets the VC, Prof. Ngumi after bagging the prestigious Schmidt Science Fellow Award

International Recognition

Staff, students and alumni in 2019 positioned JKUAT as a crucible for award winning research and innovations enterprises that seek to address global challenges.

The Chancellor, Prof Joseph Mathu Ndung’u, led the pack by bagging the African Union’s Excellence award for his contribution in spearheading the development of new diagnostic tools for neglected tropical diseases.

Gladys Ngetich, a JKUAT alumna, won the prestigious Schmidt Science Fellow Award at University of Oxford. She is one of the twenty fellows globally currently working in interdisciplinary science, addressing great global challenges, while Dysmus Kisilu, founder of Solar Freeze and JKUAT alumnus, became the first runner up of the Third Annual Cisco Global Problem Solver challenge, winning Kshs. 7.5 million.

Prof. Elegwa Mukulu was honoured with the distinguished Alumni award by the Illinois College of Education for his illustrious strides in impactful education, mentoring and publishing.

Freshia Sackey, an Electronic and Computer Engineering 3rd year student bagged the innovator of the year award in the 4th edition of the Nairobi Tech Week (NTW) 2019, as Stephen Odiwour, Medicine student, was crowned winner of 2019 Student Project for Health Competition organised by US based foundation for advancement of international Medical Education and Research (FAIMER).

PowerYako team pose with their trophy won during the Energy Management Awards (EMA) 2019

PowerYako innovation presented by four students led by Joseph Ngatia and Path Finder innovation presented by Elias Koome emerged top in the Students’ Innovation Category of the Kenya Association of Manufacturing (KAM) Energy Management Awards (EMA) 2019.

In the same year, two JKUAT students emerged winners in the #MyLittleBigThing Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2019 Challenge. Stephen Muchiri, a Control and Instrumentation student and Ruth Gathii, a Project Management student bagged the top positions from a pool of over 100 participants.

In March 2019, a team of four students comprising of three from JKUAT’s School of Computing and Information Technology – Keith Martin, Alexander Muithi, Kennedy Wangari, and one from Catholic University of East and Central Africa – Teresia Muiruri clinched the top honors in the Data Science Track at the 2019 Oracle Student Hackathon. This was marched by Gilbert Nakiboli, a student of Electrical & Electronic Engineering who bagged the Start-up for Better Energy award under the Total Startupper of the Year 2019 Challenge with his innovation dubbed Safariwiz.

In October, JKUAT emerged the best University at the 2019 Public Relations Society of Kenya (PRSK) Student Boot Camp during the fourth edition of the annual boot camp. The event brought together Journalism, Public Relations and Mass Communication students from 12 universities in Kenya to discuss matters public relations and its practice.

The year also witnessed JKUAT bag recertification of two international standards namely; ISO 9001:2015 (Quality Management) and ISO 14001:2015 (Environmental Management System). The recertification affirms JKUAT’s global visibility and competitiveness as an environmentally sound source of quality knowledge, innovations and research outputs.

JKUAT Council and Management

The year ended on a high note with the Government’s appointment of the new JKUAT Council for a period of three years, as well as the joint graduation ceremony, 34th for JKUAT and 5th for the Pan African University of Basic Sciences, Technology and Innovation (PAUSTI).

If you have interacted with JKUAT you will perhaps appreciate the fact that we could go on and on about how 2019 was a memorable and significant year for the University.

We have no doubt that as we begin the New Year and decade, JKUAT will continue to provide leadership in research, innovation and entrepreneurship in the region.

As the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Victoria Wambui Ngumi, always says, “We have top notch brains and innovations in this University to solve problems facing the region, specifically in manufacturing, healthcare, food security and housing for sustainable development.”

We are optimistic, 2020 will be another opportunity for JKUAT to soar to the skies.

Happy 2020!

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