Dr. Ezekiel Njeru Mugendi of the Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Biotechnology is among the first cohort of awardees under the Future Leaders –African Independent Research (FLAIR) fellowship that seeks to support early career researchers to build their career and become leaders in their respective fields. The fellowship award of GBP 300,000 will support Dr. Njerui’s project titled “Using root-associated microorganisms to enhance sustainable crop production and resilience of smallholder agroecosystems to climate change.”
The projectaims to identify and promote the use of beneficial root-associated microorganisms as an alternate low-cost fertilizer to enhance crop production, yield quality and stress tolerance among small scale farmers in semi-arid areas. Although many root-associated microorganisms are of high ecological importance, little is known about their biodiversity and utilization in smallholder farms. Dr. Njeru will map the biodiversity patterns of the native root-associated microorganisms in Embu, Kitui and Tharaka Nithi Counties of Kenya and effective native isolates that promote sustainable food production and are resilient to climate change drivers will be promoted for adoption and uptake among the small scale farmers. Read more
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
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.
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..
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