New study on Indigenous foods to boost food security

A week long proposal writing training workshop aimed at preparing researchers in the agricultural sciences on ways of diversifying the horticulture sector to foster the perennial food security menace particularly in sub-Saharan Africa commenced at JKUAT, Thursday, March 1 2012. Attracting 55 researchers drawn from various universities and research institutions from four countries; Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Germany, the workshop is expected to come up with a scientific proposal likely to lead into ground breaking research studies to exploit the horticultural sector through the intensification of urban and peri-urban horticulture, to be achieved primarily through the growth and development of indigenous vegetables and fruits.

Speaking during the workshop’s opening session; the Vice Chancellor Prof. Mabel Imbuga welcomed the new project saying it would lead to the much needed diversification of food systems and improvement of horticultural value chains particularly in Africa where she added it could result in improved living conditions of majority poor. ‘The envisioned research project will naturally fall within the scope of what we do at JKUAT and thus contribute to the execution of our mandate’.

Prof. Imbuga noted that while horticulture was a leading foreign exchange earner in Kenya, the sector links lacked in its various aspects of production, a fact that  she lamented had often worked against the small scale actors in the industry, who despite their dominant role hardly benefitted from the enterprise. ‘Strengthening of the horticultural value chain has therefore the potential to directly impact on the small growers and contribute to the realization of our national development agenda according to Kenya Vision 2030’.

The workshop financed by Germany’s Ministry of Education and Research is motivated by the persuasion that diversification into agriculture and horticulture in particular could contribute to increased wealth creation and foster nutritional status of vulnerable populations mainly women and children in Africa. This is hoped to be achieved through the promotion and use of various horticultural produce like for example; Africa’s indigenous vegetables and fruits known to provide sustainable and affordable sources of vitamins and nutritional compounds in diets.

By attempting to bring horticultural value chain production into focus, as a mainstream agricultural function, the assembled researchers hope to achieve a number of benefits that would lead to increased employment, in addition to improving women’s economic status through increased incomes.  The team from Germany is led by renowned scholar in horticulture, Stuetzel Hartmut of Leibniz Universitaet Hannover, vegetable system modeling,  who together Dr. Lusike Wasilwa, assistant Director in charge Horticultural and Industrial crops at Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, addressed the opening session.

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