The Legume Centre of Excellence for Food and Nutrition Security (LCEFoNS) led by Prof. Marc Hendrickx (KU Leuven, Belgium) and Prof. Daniel Sila (JKUAT, Kenya) took stock of the successes gained by the project in its first phase of implementation, January 12, 2021.
Since inception in 2017, the project, funded to the tune of Euros 3,735,000.00 (Ksh. 410 million), under VLIR-UOS initiative has facilitated a total of 24 students with their postgraduate training (8 PhD and 17 Masters) and enhanced the laboratory infrastructure at JKUAT through procurement of discipline related research equipment.
Dr. Elizabeth Wafula, the latest PhD graduate of the project, said “the project has accorded me with quality and exceptional training and I am determined to give back the competence, knowledge and skills gained from my studies to JKUAT and impact the next generation of food scientists.
She was speaking during a LCEFoNS hybrid (physical and virtual) stakeholder meeting that brought together JKUAT, government, research institution, private sector and Belgian partners – Katholic University Leuven and Vrije University of Brussels to discuss the road map for the second phase implementation.
While congratulating Dr. Wafula, Prof. Sila said the first phase of the project focused on capacity building of human resource and improve the research practices in JKUAT.
“The first five years of the project was dedicated to capacity building and now as we begin the second phase this year, our goal is to consolidate the gains of the first year and escalate it to the community for improved food security and nutrition,” said Prof. Sila.
The various presenters during the stakeholder meeting spoke with one accord, saying as much as legumes were a highly nutritious crop, they were underutilized due to its hard to cook defect. The project has been in the forefront in tackling this defect while focusing on the different stages along the value chain of legumes. This is from agricultural production, postharvest storage, food processing, human consumption to its impact on nutrition and health.
With the gains of the first phase of LCEFoNS, Phase II of the project will be geared towards; strengthening research activities, education and peoples capacities, improving infrastructure and dissemination and strengthening regional and international networks.
“We are cognizant to the fact that we cannot do it alone and that is why we have engaged the government, industry, community and research institutions to help us disseminate the project’s research outputs,” attested Prof. Sila.
His counterpart, Prof. Hendrickx acknowledged the success achieved in the last five years saying “I am confident the outputs of the first phase are useful and now it is time to focus on valorization of this outputs to the community.”
Deputy Head of Nutrition and Dietetics Unit, Ministry of Health Kenya, Ms. Leila Akinyi Odhiambo, lauded the project’s direction of disseminating the knowledge gained back to the community adding that the project appreciated the importance of food security and nutrition.
“From inception, this project engaged the relevant stakeholders hence the success it has achieved so far. It is only through such engagements that will ensure the second phase of the project is scaled up thus ensuring that Kenyans have safe and nutritious food throughout the year,” said Ms Odhiambo.
LCEFoNS, running to year 2027, is an inter-departmental and inter-disciplinary programme domiciled at the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources working closely with the College of Health Sciences and School of Computing and Information Technology.