Researchers share findings on African vegetables with Kenyan farmers

BY PATRICK AMUNAVI

Kenyan and Germany researchers working under the Horticultural Innovation and Learning for Improved Nutrition and Livelihood in East Africa (HORTINLEA) project have made significant achievements in generating knowledge on African Indigenous Vegetables (AIVs).

This knowledge covers genetic diversity and seed systems, plant nutrition and fertilizer management, water management and irrigation, pest and disease management, harvesting and postharvest handling, value addition as well as health benefits of AIVs.

Prof. Mabel Imbuga, Vice Chancellor, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology lauded the project activities which she said, “will meaningfully contribute to the body of scientific knowledge as well as the economic wellbeing of the communities.”

“While Kenya as a country is highly dependent on agriculture with horticulture leading in terms of foreign exchange earnings, the weak links among the various aspects of production have made it difficult for the small holder growers to benefit,” said Prof. Imbuga in a statement read by Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of Research, Production and Extension, Prof. Mary Abukutsa.

She expressed hope that research initiatives under HORTINLEA will continue to play “a major role in strengthening the horticultural value chain because of their potential to directly impact on the small growers thus contributing to the realization of the country’s development agenda under the Kenya Vision 2030 and the Big Four.”

Prof. Imbuga acknowledged the Ministry of Education and Research of Germany for funding the project as well as HORTINLEA’s Principal Investigator, Prof. Wolfgang Boklemann of the Humboldt University of Berlin, for spearheading the multidisciplinary research project.

According to Prof. Boklemann, HORTINLEA is an engine for economic growth, contributing to biodiversity of agricultural production system, offering entrepreneurial opportunities for the youth and women in the region.”

This was revealed at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), Monday, March 12, 2018 during the official opening of the 5th HORTINLEA annual forum that brought together over 100 researchers, small holder farmers from 12 counties, policy and decision makers in agriculture, consultants, extension workers and industry players in horticulture, particularly the AIVs value chain.

Apart from investigating various components of the horticultural value chain in order to gather knowledge about the production, quality, marketing and consumption of African indigenous vegetables, the local project coordinator, Prof. John Wesonga of JKUAT says, “climate change and the prospects of reduced rainfall are some of the issues that have motivated our research teams to generate climate change scenarios and come up with appropriate vegetable varieties that are suitable for the climate conditions likely to be experienced in the years to come.”

The meeting also provided a forum for innovators to showcase and pitch latest technologies to small scale farmers; panel discussion on the draft edition of the book on AIVs especially the key findings and recommendations with policy and decision makers in agriculture. The Industry players also explored prospects of forging viable collaborations aimed at enhancing farmers’ access to some of the technologies developed under the project.

As an interdisciplinary research project on food security, HORTINLEA is touted as one of the initiatives that will improve the livelihoods and nutritional situation of the rural and urban poor through horticultural crops especially the African leafy indigenous vegetables in East Africa, particularly, Kenya.

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