Koskei Calls for Increased Food Security Research

It will be ironical for the country to continue grappling with the issue of food security when it produces some of the best researchers in the region who could find a solution to  the situation.

 Mr. Koskei being introduced to a propagated Tissue culture banana by the Vice Chancellor at one of the University’s green houses, flanked by Mr. Charles Kalomba JKUAT Mashinani lead consultant

Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Mr. Felix Koskei said, it had become apparent that the plight of low productivity required urgent attention if hunger was to be eradicated.

The Cabinet Secretary who made an extensive tour of JKUAT’s Research, Production and Extension Division and the Faculty of Agriculture, Wednesday, October 23, 2013, challenged scientists in universities to take the lead in spearheading researches that address Kenya’s economic problems by coming up with innovations that added value to people’s lives.

He singled out high cost of farm inputs such as fertilizer, certified seeds, mechanization costs, low uptake of technology, as well as access to machinery, which he said, were beyond the reach of the ordinary farmer. These, he said, were critical inputs whose utilization guaranteed bumper harvests. “Unfortunately, the costs are prohibitive,” noted Mr. Koskei.

While commending JKUAT for embracing a new paradigm shift that focused on applied research as opposed to the stereotype academic training, the Cabinet Secretary observed that the government expected to get solutions to the problems affecting the country from researches carried out in universities as centres of excellence.

Mr. Koskei flanked by the VC Prof. Imbuga in the University’s Commercial Laboratory

The government, he noted, was determined to triple research funding to universities, adding that his ministry would partner with institutions whose projects complemented the Kenya Vision 2030 flagship projects.  Areas of particular interest his ministry wished to give priority to, he pointed out, included; soil fertility, value addition and technology transfer, which he stressed, could only find their solutions in universities.

He urged universities to demystify the perception the youth had about agriculture, as an activity reserved for the old, describing agriculture as the economic driver of the country’s economy, directly contributing about 25% of the GDP, which he insisted needed to be boosted to reach to at least 40%.  In the rural areas, he further pointed out, the agricultural sector employed about 80% of the rural population.

The Cabinet Secretary called on universities to constantly review their curriculum and come up with innovative ways that would attract the youth to take up agriculture and agricultural related courses.

While welcoming the Cabinet Secretary, Vice Chancellor Prof. Mabel Imbuga said, food security was at the core of her university, and was collaborating with some universities in Japan, local industry and institutions in carrying out extensive researches that would add value to agricultural products and the country as a whole. 

The Cabinet Secretary being introduced to the University’s value added products in the Food Science Laboratories. He was flanked by the VC Prof. Imbuga and by Dean, Faculty of Agriculture Prof. Ngamu Kamau(Left)

JKUAT, she further added, was also partnering with some Universities in China on dry land agriculture where a 40 acre Botanical Garden with 7 laboratories was to be set up at the Juja Campus.

Prof. Esther Kahangi, the Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of Research, Production and Extension, appealed to the government to involve local scientists while awarding tenders as past experiences had proved that they were up to the task.

Also present were the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic Affairs) Prof. Romanus Odhiambo, the Dean, Faculty of Agriculture Prof. Ngamau Kamau and the JKUAT Mashinani Project Lead Consultant, Mr. Charles Kalomba among other University and Ministry staff officials.

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