Kenya isn’t just home to CIAT’s operations in Africa, it is home to a longstanding and successful partnership with the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO) (formerly KARI).
Over the years, the partners have generated major agricultural research successes for the benefit of Kenyan farmers. It is against this backdrop that KALRO and CIAT cemented their commitment to find sustainable solutions to the challenges facing the country’s agricultural sector by signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU).
Dr. Ruben Echeverria, Director General, CIAT, and Dr. Felister Makini, Ag. Deputy Director General Crops – Crops Division, on behalf of the KALRO Director General, formalised their partnership of collaborative research for development on 23 September 2015.
The MoU lays out their commitment to build sustainable food and nutrition security, and environmental health; strengthen market links to stimulate agricultural production and improve incomes and rural livelihoods; increase bean and forage productivity; enhance sustainable soil, water and land management; reduce vulnerability to climate variability and change and promote climate resilience and climate smart agricultural practices; and support capacity development and institutional strengthening.
Speaking at the signing at KALRO’s headquarters in Nairobi, Dr. Felister Makini emphasised the importance of working with partners: “Our relationship with CIAT dates back many years and we have celebrated many successes, particularly in bean, soils and forages research. Through our partnership we can continue to drive forward to achieve food security and develop scientific tools and technologies to create lasting impact for Kenya’s farmers.”
Ruben Echeverria, visiting the region from CIAT’s headquarters in Colombia, added: “Partnerships with national research institutions like KALRO are essential if CIAT is to achieve its aim to reduce hunger and poverty, and improve nutrition through agricultural research. The MoU cements our pledge to work collaboratively, support training and capacity building, and seek out new opportunities to create meaningful change on the ground through joint research projects.”
At the meeting, researchers from KALRO and CIAT highlighted some of the major challenges the partnership will tackle including: unleashing the potential of livestock farming by continuing to search for solutions to Kenya’s severe feed shortage; building national bean breeding capacity, increasing bean production and markets, and improving nutrition through the release of high-iron beans and value-added bean products; tackling land degradation and soil erosion along with finding solutions for adapting to climate change. Over the next few weeks, researchers from both organisations will agree a set of targets and activities to meet these challenges.
The partnership between KALRO and CIAT has led to many projects and successes across soils, beans, forages and climate change research:
- Kenya’s membership of the Pan-Africa Bean Research Alliance (PABRA), coordinated by CIAT, has enabled KALRO to develop and release disease tolerant high yielding, farmer and market preferred bean varieties, now grown by hundreds of thousands of farmers in the country. In the future, it could also see KALRO release a new CIAT bean that can grow in higher temperatures, in efforts to combat climate change. Other climate smart bean varieties developed by CIAT are being tested by KALRO at its Katumani research station.
- Improved bean seed systems through the fostering of public-private partnerships with private seed companies enabling farmers to access quality seeds of new varieties.
- The evaluation of CIAT forage materials in the search for improved feed options for livestock farming to increase livestock productivity, support environmental services, overcome constraints of forage seed production and establish efficient and reliable forage seed systems contributing to livestock value chains that are climate-smart and sustainable.
- The strengthening of Kenya’s national Bean Program through PABRA-supported capacity building.
- Research into Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM) aimed at boosting farm system productivity and intensification has led to greater adoption of ISFM technologies.
- The development of a public-private partnership to research and develop a pre-cooked bean product, providing an affordable, quick to cook and nutritious food option.