Kenya’s Vision 2030 emphasizes quality education and training in Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) in order to make Kenya a middle- income country by 2030 and to improve competitiveness regionally and globally. A key constraint to attainment of the STI goals has been the significant low numbers of qualified teaching staff in the fields of engineering and applied sciences. This has adversely affected the capacity in institutions of higher learning to fill existing vacancies in these fields. The Government of Kenya therefore secured a loan from African Development Bank (AFDB) to Support Enhancement of Quality and Relevance in Higher Education Science and Technology. HEST is a five year project aimed at contributing to Kenya’s human capital skills development capacity building particularly in education, science and technology, to respond to labor market demands and spur productivity nationally. The HEST project objective is to improve equitable access, quality and relevance of skills training and research eading to job creation and self-employment.
Kenyatta University through the School of Pure and Applied Sciences was competitively selected to be a consultant in the HEST project, to strengthen and improve its capacity to train and mentor a large number of postgraduate students in applied sciences. Kenyatta University was selected to train 31 PhDs and 23 Msc’s in Chemistry and Physics. This training component will support capacity building of existing staff in engineering and applied sciences at Masters and PhD levels. Training approach will be conducted through a blended training mode that utilizes the local teaching faculty, industry experts and faculty from collaborating institutions from within Africa and abroad that are already supporting the faculties as part time lectures and supervisors. PhD students will carry out research that is relevant to the vision 2030 key sectors. The existing partnership with the Kenya Private Sector Alliance will be explored to enhance meaningful industrial attachments, research and development of incubation centers. The HEST project will not only provide the requisite numbers but also enhance quality of the graduates in these fields. To promote women participation in science and engineering, a deliberate effort was made to ensure that a third of the total number of trainees are women.
Global food security is one of the biggest challenges today more so due to its close relation with poverty, it has thus became a subject of many public debates with the aim of finding sustainable resolutions, among the possible solutions under consideration is the firming up of the horticultural sector which has the potential to foster improvement of the nutritional status and increase incomes among vulnerable people. In Kenya as well as in neighboring countries, majority of the population are unable to meet their daily nutritional requirements, despite a good number of them depending on farming. Horticultural crops, particularly leafy vegetables, provide essential nutrients lacking in the diet of millions. Additionally, horticulture being largely labor-intensive it stands to be provide employment opportunities to many.
“In order to improve the current nutritional status of the population of rural and peri-urban regions of Kenya, promoting a more balanced diet by increasing the consumption of fresh and optimally processed African Leafy Vegetables (ALV) is advisable”
Horticultural Innovations and Learning for Improved Nutrition and Livelihood in East Africa (HORTINLEA) is an interdisciplinary research consortia funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research aimed at addressing food security in East Africa, particularly in Kenya. Nineteen universities and research institutions in Kenya, Tanzania and Germany have collaborated to add value from their academic excellence and expertise. The overall goal of the consortium is to improve the livelihood and nutritional situation of the rural and urban poor. Focusing on horticulture and leafy vegetables, HORTINLEA seeks to meet the pressing challenges of malnutrition, poverty and sustainability by adopting an integrated approach which combines poverty, environmental and gender concerns as well as encompasses the entire value chain from production to marketing and consumption of leafy vegetables.
Kenyatta University is Part of this Great Initiative
“Under this Project we has been able to train 75PhD, 60% being Kenyans and therefore contributing to the Kenya Government efforts of ensuring 1000 PhDs are trained per year in order to improve quality of University education. Prof. Waceke”
Prof. Waceke Wanjohi, Dean, School of Agriculture and Enterprise Development and a member of the HORTINLEA Executive Board was involved in the development and successful establishment and funding of this initiative in 2014 and is the principal investigator in one of the 14 subprojects entitled ‘Development of Integrated Pest Management Strategies for the Production of Important Vegetable Crops in Kenya’. The overall aim of this sub project is to develop integrated pest and disease control strategies for increased yield and to ensure crop quality. The project seeks to develop sustainable management strategies for a) Root-knot Nematode pests, viruses and phytoplasmas on African nightshades, b) cowpea insect pests and c) insect pests and diseases on leafy indigenous vegetables in Kenya. The projects expected outputs will increase knowledge, develop adequate management strategies and affordable solutions, which will improve vegetable production and further increase income opportunities and access to nutritive vegetables. This project is in collaboration with Humboldt-University Berlin (HUB), International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), Leibniz Institute of Vegetable and Ornamental Crops (IGZ), Leibniz University Hannover (LUH) and Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT).
“Prevention is the best method to protect the environment from contamination by heavy metals”
Dr. Joseph Gweyi, a senior lecturer in the Department of Agriculture Science and Technology, alsopartnered with HORTRINLEA to provide knowledge on the current status of soil fertility management and to identify possible constraints for vegetable production in the peri-urban area of Nairobi due to mineral nutrients, soil organic matter (contents and heavy metals). The sub-project titled ‘Crop-specific carbon and mineral element fluxes for sustainable soil fertility and nutrient management in horticultural production systems’,aims to determine and analyze the current status and sources of heavy metal contamination of vegetables, and of crop specific plant traits regulating heavy metal contamination. The projects expected outputs will serve as a basis for series of options and locally tailored recommendations for integrated Soil organic matter and nutrient management in horticultural production systems, and avoidance of heavy metal hazard of vegetable consumers. This project is in collaboration with partners from Humboldt-University Berlin (HUB), Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology (JOOST) and Egerton University.
The joint research project HORTINLEA is funded within the framework of the Programme GlobE – Global Food Security by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development with a grant of up to 7.5 million Euros over five years.
Prof. Waceke WanjohiDean, School of Agriculture and Enterprise DevelopmentKenyatta University
Dr. Joseph GweyiDepartment of Agricultural Science and TechnologyKenyatta University
Why tomato?Tomato is one of the most important vegetables grown in Kenya. It plays a critical role in income generation and creation of employment for both rural and urban populations, in addition to meeting food nutritional requirements. Tomato is a nutritious vegetable that provides good quantities of vitamins A and C. Tomatoes are used in many cooking recipes or as a fresh item in combination with salads. Tomatoes are grown for the domestic market under both rain-fed and irrigated conditions. Due to the high demand for tomato, farmers have extensively adopted high yielding varieties and modern technologies like greenhouse production to ensure year round increased production. Commercial farming of this important crop is however under immense threat from pests and disease, mainly Fusarium wilt, Nematode complex and the Tuta absoluta (tomato leafminer). Some farmers have reported yield losses of up-to 80-100 % per growing season.
Tuta absoluta commonly known as the tomato leaf-miner, is a very harmful leaf mining moth with a strong preference for tomatoes. Measuring a mere 7mm, this invasive pest is considered a serious threat to tomato production worldwide. It also occurs on eggplants, sweet peppers as well as potatoes and various other cultivated plants. Tuta absoluta can cause 50-100% yield reduction on tomato crops and its presence may also limit the export of the product to several destinations. Prevention and proper management of the pest is crucial. Chemical control often fails due to the resistance of the pest against many pesticides, but also because a big part of its development takes place inside the plant or the soil, out of reach of pesticides.
Fusarium wilt is one of the major diseases of tomato in Kenya. Fusarium wilt in tomatoes is caused by a fungus which is soil borne and can survive indefinitely without any host. Most occurrences are associated with infected tomato debris left in the soil. An infected tomato will begin yellowing on the bottom leaves. The yellowing will begin on one side of the leaf, shoot, or branch and then slowly spread out and up the vine. The vines will brown along the veins and eventually wilt permanently, resulting in a stunted plant. If the plant does not die, it will be weak and produce low quality tomatoes. Fusarium wilt can survive for years in the soil and is spread by water, insects and garden equipment. It develops during hot weather and is most destructive when soil temperatures approach 27˚C. Dry weather and low soil moisture encourage this plant disease. In spite of the high tomato losses associated with Fusarium wilt its control is limited to use of fungicides which are unaffordable by the many poor resource Kenyan farmers. There is therefore need to seek alternative control measures that can be attractive to a poor resource farmer.
In Kenya root-knot nematodes are widely spread in all tomato growing areas and hence are a major concern to both smallholder farmers and commercial producers. Losses in yields range from 28% to 68%.The small-scale farmers fail to recognize nematodes because they are found in the soil and their above ground symptoms can be mistaken for nutrient deficiencies and climatic changes especially drought. Root knot nematodes survive by feeding directly off nutrients pumped through tomato roots. They form galls that can reach up to an inch wide where they hide and reproduce, causing a number of symptoms on the plant. Yellowing plants, stunted growth and general decline are early symptoms of the disease. Their microscopic size make it difficult to identify them and farmers are required to dig up the crop to check on the presence of root-knots which is not a common practice. Prevention against nematodes is difficult because nematodes cannot be eradicated completely from the field.
‘‘As new trends emerge, Kenyan farmers in the future will have to innovate continuously in order to remain competitive; the farmers will need to respond to the permanent pressure on margins, professionalism, increase demand and face growers in abroad countries with excellent farming techniques (Koppert).’’
It is against this backdrop that Dr. George M. Kariuki, a senior lecturer in the Department of Agriculture Science and Technology, Kenyatta University partnered with Koppert Biological Systems Kenya and Koppert BV Netherlands in a project to tackle the two greatest threats to tomato farming - Tuta absoluta and Fusarium wilt-Nematode complex. The project titled Development, Validation and Dissemination of Integrated Pest Management Packages for Tomato Leafminer (Tuta absoluta) and Fusarium Wilt-root Knot Nematode Complex affecting Tomato Production in Kenya, aims to improve tomato production in the peri-urban tropics through development, validation and dissemination of IPM strategies that are effective, sustainable and adoptable to combat these menaces for tomato within smallholder farms in Kenya. The project seeks to enhance and facilitate knowledge exchange and dissemination whilst building the capacity of farmers, agricultural extension officers and other stakeholders. The projects expected outputs are to publish catalogues and papers on diversity and identity of Tuta absoluta and Fusarium wilt-Nematode complex, develop sustainable management of Tuta absoluta and Fusarium wilt-Nematode complex within smallholder farms, increase capacity and knowledge for agricultural practitioners in integrated pest management which will improve the overall production of tomatoes in Kenya.
Dr. George M. KariukiDepartment of Agricultural Science and Technology Kenyatta UniversityProject financed by: Food & Business Applied Research Fund (ARF), Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO)Project title: Development, Validation and Dissemination of Integrated Pest Management Packages for Tomato Leafminer (Tuta absoluta) and Fusarium Wilt-root Knot Nematode Complex affecting Tomato Production in Kenya
Although African universities have been teaching and researching using GIS for decades, usage has been intermittent and for the most part kept at a basic level while industrial and government GIS users have been evolving toward enterprise solutions and this has created gaps in knowledge and experience. With an eye to plugging that gap, Esri’s 100 African Universities programme has quietly been providing software and learning resources to selected universities across the continent. Read More..
Read the GIS Story Map.
A majority of smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) depend on cereals such maize, millet, sorghum, and cowpea for subsistence. However, production of these cereals is greatly constrained by members of the genus Striga – Striga hermonthica and S. asiatica and S. gesnerioides – parasitic plants that attach to the roots of their hosts causing severe stunting and loss of yield. It is estimated that Striga invades about 50 million hectares of land in Sub Saharan Africa resulting in devastating production losses of up to US$8 billion among small-scale farmers, contributing to poverty and hunger in the region. In Kenya, it is estimated that over 200,000 hectares of land are infested with Striga causing crop losses amounting to nearly 400,000 tons worth US$ 80 million per year’’
‘Striga seeds can remain viable in the soil for up to 14 years…... each Striga flower spike can produce over 50,000 seeds…… the weed intricately links its lifecyle to that of the host… ’
Smallholder farmers in SSA have battled with different control methods aimed at reducing Striga seed density in the soil, they include reducing the amount of Striga seed contaminating crop seed supplies, hand-weeding, crop rotation, and the use of ‘trap crops’ to encourage parasite germination on incompatible hosts. However, despite the extensive use of these methods crop losses and the host range of these parasites have continued to increase. Managing Striga is hampered by two factors; its ability to produce huge numbers of seeds – as each Striga flower spike can produce over 50,000 seeds, and ability to intricately link its lifecycle to that of the host – as Striga only germinates in response to host cues. In addition, Striga seeds can remain viable in the soil for up to 14 years.
Face of the ‘cereal’ killer. Striga’s beautify falsifies its wicked true nature.
Master of Science student Duncan Njora holding a bouquet of Striga flowers in one of the field visits.
Derailing the Witch Weed
Dr. Steven Runo from the Department of Biochemistry and Biotechnology, Kenyatta University is leading a project to identify mechanisms controlling release of Striga virulence genes as a first step toward developing breeding strategies that can be used to build durable resistance to Striga. Dr. Runo in his project titled ‘Derailing witchweed (Striga) virulence in rice to achieve durable and broad-spectrum resistance’ aims to provide a comprehensive assessment of the mutations or genetic variations in Striga virulence factors as well as their role in host plants. Additionally, the research hopes to identify novel sources of Striga resistance from wild cereal relatives. Expected outcomes from the research include; identification of multiple factors (effectors) that help Striga evade resistance by its host, quantification of how these factors are able to change with time and acquire ability to invade new hosts, identification of corresponding resistance genes and the identification of the specificity of different Striga virulence races (ecotypes) to different host cultivars.
Application of the Research.Knowledge generated in the project will directly be applied to breeding of new seed varieties that are resistant to Striga, through gene pyramiding. Since the yields of important cereal crops in Africa is on the decline due to the impact of Striga, the results of this project will have significant influence on agricultural productivity in the region and others where the parasitic plant is a problem.
‘‘The most efficient and cost effective way to control Striga infestations would be to develop crops that are resistant to Striga – while reducing evading Striga virulence’’
Research led by:
Dr. Steven M. RunoDepartment of Biochemistry and BiotechnologyKenyatta University
Project title: Derailing witchweed (Striga) virulence in rice to achieve durable and broad-spectrum resistance
Project financed by: Partnership for Enhanced Engagement in Research (PEER) Science Cycle 2
Central Administration Complex Building. 4th Floor
or chat with us
Applications for funds form
Reporting form template
Download the Newsletter
Read the Previous Issues