Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology has entered a tripartite agreement with Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (United Kingdom) and Ghent University (Belgium) for collaborative research and academic exchange.
The three-year agreement 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.
Vice Chancellor, Prof. Victoria Wambui Ngumi said she was confident that the collaboration will lead to stronger research ties between the institutions and the knowledge gained will be beneficial to society.
“I fully commit Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, to actualize this Agreement. As academia, it is through such collaborations and exchanges that we build the capacity of our teaching and research staff,” attested Prof. Ngumi during a virtual meeting to mark the beginning of the tripartite collaboration.
On his part, the Rector, University of Ghent, Prof Rik Fan de Walle said the collaboration will go a long way in sharing expertise and knowledge between the partners and enable the young researchers of the institutions to further their research capacity for the betterment of society.
Giving a brief about the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Dr. Martin Cheek said he hoped that the collaboration will solidify the linkage between Kew and Africa.
“We undertake fundamental taxonomic research and botanical inventories of underexplored areas, resulting in the discovery of hundreds of species new to science and we look forward to creating knowledge in this area for posterity purposes,” said Dr. Cheek.
One of the outputs to sprout out of the collaboration is a joint research project on sweet potato conducted by Mr. Samuel Paul Kagame, under the supervision of Prof. Lars Chatrou (Ghent University) and Prof. Anne Muigai (JKUAT), with the collaboration of Dr. Ana Rita Simoes (Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew).
The project aims at studying the evolution and genetics of African wild relatives of sweet potato in East Africa, focusing on the scientific question of how storage roots have evolved in this group of species.
Prof. Muigai said the project had come at an opportune time when the country was keen on supporting indigenous food and, they expect it to provide hard evidence on morphology, geographic distribution, conservation and ecology, as well as high-quality genomic data for the sweet potato species.
“Looking ahead, this will allow further investigation of the genes that are involved in the development of storage roots, climate resilience and edibility traits,” said Prof. Muigai.
Mr. Kagame, an alumnus of JKUAT and currently pursuing his PhD at Ghent University acknowledged that inadequate scientific data on the sweet potato species has hindered its adoption to combat malnutrition.
“It is gratifying to witness this scientific and bilateral journey come to life. For the sweet potato project, I am confident that the knowledge generated from the project will be critical in addressing policy and tackling food insecurity in the East Africa region,” said Mr. Kagame.
Using the sweet potato project as a yardstick for collaborative research, Prof. Chatrou said the collaboration endeavours to build the capacity of young scientists and increase scientific endeavours in the East Africa region.
The virtual meeting saw the signing of the tripartite collaboration between Ghent University and Royal Botanic Garden, Kew with JKUAT expected to sign their part in a week’s time.