Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology is poised to tip the scales in food and nutrition security research ecosystem across the region following the launch of the Legume Centre of Excellence for Food and Nutrition Security (LCEFoNS) – a twelve-year inter-departmental /disciplinary research synergy focusing on beans, cowpeas and green grams.
While officially launching the Centre, domiciled in the Faculty of Agriculture, Tuesday, April, 11, Belgium Ambassador to Kenya, Ms. Roxane de Bilderling, lauded the initiative which she said, “was about partnerships aimed at improving the conditions of livelihoods and standards of living for communities.” The Ambassador urged Kenyans to embrace the consumption of nutrient rich legumes instead of over reliance on ugali.
Lauding the tripartite partnership, Mr. Archer Arina, who spoke on behalf of the Principal Secretary, Ministry of Education, said, a university that aspires to achieve quality in training and research must collaborate with other like minded institutions across the globe, and applauded JKUAT for reaching out to universities in Belgium, leading to the establishment of the legumes centre of excellence.
Referring to JKUAT’s designated twin centres of excellence status as the African Union’s Pan African University Institute for Basic Sciences Technology and Innovation (PAUSTI), as well as the Regional Centre for ICT training and related skills for the Northern Corridor Integration Projects (NCIP), Mr. Arina observed that the additional launch of the Legume Centre of Excellence has significantly raised the profile and ranking of JKUAT’s research standing.
Mr. Arina appealed to JKUAT and her partners to share the knowledge from the ongoing research with relevant Government ministries such as Agriculture and Health in order to catalyze the Government’s quest to achieve national development objectives.
Vice Chancellor, Prof Mabel Imbuga, informed the stakeholders that the legume crops had been “prioritized by the Government of Kenya due to their potential in contributing towards eliminating protein and energy malnutrition, and their capacity to fix nitrogen in the soil, thereby reducing the need for expensive inorganic fertilizers and at the same time reducing environmental pollution.”
Legumes, Prof. Imbuga explained, “mature fast, are widely consumed and are a cheaper source of proteins compared to meat,” and further said, the Legume Centre research outputs will cover the entire legume value chain and are aligned to the Economic Pillar of Kenya’s Vision 2030 and the second Medium Term Plan (MTP, 2013-2017) particularly the Agricultural Sector Development Strategy (2010-2020) of Kenya, which has identified agriculture and food security as critical for economic growth and development with agriculture being a key driver for achieving 10% annual economic growth rate.
The newly launched Legume Centre will host four research projects entailing legume production and management practices including breeding for easy to cook and flatulence free legume varieties; Developing a tool kit for identifying the sensitivity of legumes to the hard to cook problem (HTC), as well as establishing the nexus between the seed coat and the endosperm and their constituents on the development of HTC, resulting in the development of value added and nutritious legume-based food products; conducting in-vitro and clinical trials on the nutritional impact of whole legume and legume derived foods on vulnerable groups particularly children and women, targeting zinc deficiency in vulnerable populations in rural areas and urban slums of Kenya; and lastly, ICT tools and applications for data collection, analysis, and storage including building the requisite ICT infrastructure aimed at supporting the entire project.
The Legume programme which is coordinated by Dr. Daniel N. Sila from (JKUAT) and Prof. Marc Hendricks (KULeuven), is supported by VLIR-UOS through an Inter-University Collaboration programme that brings together JKUAT (Kenya), Katholic University-Leuven (KU-Leuven) and Vrije University of Brussels (VUB) both from Belgium. The VLIR-UOS Country Strategy for Kenya, identifies the importance of building the capacity of tertiary education institutions and its contribution to food and nutrition security.