JKUAT, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Ghent University Joint Sweet Potato Research

Signed! JKUAT has entered a tripartite agreement with Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (United Kingdom) and Ghent University (Belgium) for collaborative research and academic exchange.

Sweet potato plays a critical role in food security and is considered as the sixth most important food crop worldwide, following rice, wheat, potatoes, maize, and cassava. However, in Sub-Saharan Africa, the sweet potato species have been generally overlooked in curbing food security due to inadequate data.

To address this, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (United Kingdom) and Ghent University (Belgium) researchers are studying the evolution and genetics of wild African relatives of sweet potato in East Africa, focusing on the how storage roots have evolved in this group of species

The joint research spearheaded by Mr. Samuel Paul Kagame, Prof. Lars Chatrou (Ghent University), Prof. Anne Muigai (JKUAT), and Dr. Ana Rita Simoes (Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew) is under the umbrella of the tripartite collaborative research and academic exchange between the three institutions.

The three-year collaboration will see the three institutions conduct joint research, share documentation, pedagogical and research material, exchange academic staff and research assistants; and also exchange PhD students and post-doctoral researchers for non-credit study and research.

While committing the University to actualize the Agreement, Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Victoria Wambui Ngumi said, it is through such collaborations and exchanges that institutions build their research and academic capacity.

Prof. Lars Chatrou interacts with the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Victoria Wambui Ngumi during the meeting

She lauded the sweet potato joint research project, the first output of the collaboration and was confident that the project will generate adequate information on the indigenous sweet potato varieties, addressing the unknown diversity and conservation status of the sweet potato.

“The sweet potato is indeed an important crop in Kenya and it is my hope that some of these indigenous sweet potato biodiversity questions will be answered through this,” said Prof. Ngumi. She was speaking while signing JKUAT’s part of the tripartite agreement on Friday, May 20, 2022.

Prof. Chatrou was excited about the prospects of the project saying the project aims at understanding the origin of the various sweet potato species and providing high-quality genomic data for the species.

“As much as our work is to provide new knowledge, this project will be vital in serving humanity through addressing the issue of food security and nutrition,” said Prof. Chatrou.

Dr. Simoes acknowledged that despite its importance, the East African sweet potato’s genetic resources have not been characterized or documented.

The taxonomist from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, said she looks forward to assessing the level of genetic diversity in sweet potatoes and determining the relationships between sweet potato genotypes.

The meeting was also addressed by the Deputy Vice Chancellor, Administration and Finance, Prof. Bernard Ikua, the Deputy Vice Chancellor, Research, Production and Extension, Prof. Mary Abukutsa, the Dean of School of Biological Sciences, Dr. Peter Njoroge Mwangi, Prof. Anne Muigai and Dr. Moses Gichua.

Commemorative Photo: From left: Dr. Peter Mwangi, Prof. Anne Muigai, Prof. Bernard Ikua, Prof. Lars Chatrou, Mr. Samuel Paul Kagame, Prof. Victoria Ngumi, Dr. Kaibui Mwikamba, Dr. Ana Rita Simoes, Mr. Richard Wokabi, Prof. Mary Abukutsa, Dr. Moses Gichua and Ms. Maryanne Wanyoike

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