In March 2016, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology became the only Kenyan university that won a VLIR-UOS funded IUC Programme to establish a Legume Centre of Excellence for Food and Nutrition Security (LCEFoNS). This is a North –South Collaboration between JKUAT in Kenya and KULeuven and Vrije Universiteit Brussels, both from Belgium. The Programme is an interdepartmental and interdisciplinary project that will be domiciled at the Faculty of Agriculture involving different departments at the faculty and but working closely with the College of Health Sciences and School of Computing and Information Technology. The programme will focus on different stages along the value chain of legumes, from agricultural production, postharvest storage and food processing until human consumption and its impact on human nutrition and health. The role of ICT in data collection, handling, management and dissemination of project outputs will be explored.
Consequently, the programme consists of four interrelated research projects and a Programme Supporting Unit. The first project is anchored in the department of Horticulture and will focus on legume production and management practices including breeding for easy to cook flatulence free varieties of high nutritional value. The second project that will be led by the department of Food Science and Technology will develop a tool kit for identifying the sensitivity of legumes to the hard to cook defect (HTC). The role of different constituents on the development of HTC and in influencing the cooking behavior of legumes will be determined as a basis for developing guidelines for use by external stakeholders and for the development of value added and nutritious legume based food products. The third project which will be led by department of Nutrition and Dietetics in collaboration with College of Health Sciences will identify legume consumption patterns and determinants, will carry out in vitro and in vivo trials on the nutritional and health impact of whole legume and legume derived foods on nutrition and health of vulnerable groups particularly children and women. The fourth project is transversal (School of Computing and Information Technology) and will support the core thematic related projects (and Faculty of Agriculture at large). This project will reinforce the School of Computing and Information Technology such that it can participate in the emerging computer science research area of software tools for (big) data science, in particular in the field of agri-informatics. See below the interrelationship.
The programme will enhance the human and infrastructural capacity of JKUAT particularly in the field of Agricultural Sciences and ICT. In the first five years, 7 PhD students are foreseen consisting of 2 PhDs from in Horticulture, 2 PhDs in Food Science and Technology, 2 PhDs in Nutrition and Health Sciences and 1 PhD in ICT. In addition, a total of 17 MSc graduates will carry out research within the 4 projects, some of them obtaining their MSc in international programmes organized in Belgium, and some of them carrying out short term visits in the context of their MSc thesis work. This will be paralleled by improvement in laboratory infrastructure through procurement of discipline related research equipment.
It is anticipated that these activities will create the starting point for making the JKUAT Faculty of Agriculture a centre of excellence in legume research and outreach. The research outputs will be translated into peer review journal publications, guidelines for use by legume users, value added products that have high consumer acceptability and that are produced in an environmentally friendly manner. This will strengthen the role of JKUAT and in particular the Faculty of Agriculture in agricultural development and strengthen its linkage with target stakeholders from government, community and community. Overall this will increase the visibility of the university and improve its global ranking in education, research and extension.