KALRO INTERVIEW: “The Kenyan government’s Big Four agenda recognises the agriculture sector as one of the key drivers of our economic growth…. ”

Exclusive interview with Dr Eliud Kireger, the Director General of KALRO (Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization), host partners in the upcoming Farm-Tech Expo Kenya, taking place from 12-13 September in Naivasha.

1.    Let’s start with some background on KALRO, your mission and your role there?
Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) is the premier national agricultural research organization mandated to conduct agricultural research of strategic and national importance and produce public goods in the form of technologies, information and new knowledge.  It was established by the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research (KALR) Act, No 17 of 2013 by merging of Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), Kenya Sugar Research Foundation (KESREF), Tea Research Foundation of Kenya (TRFK) and Coffee research Foundation (CRF).

The mandate of KALRO is to promote, streamline, coordinate and regulate all aspects of research in agriculture and livestock development, and also promote the application of the research findings and technologies.

2.    What projects that KALRO is involved in currently are you most excited about at the moment?
We are undertaking cutting edge research on a wide range of areas including staples, horticulture, livestock/dairy, natural resource management, climate change and socio-economic issues. We are particularly excited by our research outcomes such as development of a highly effective local bio-control product called aflasafe KE01 that cuts down aflatoxin levels by over 80%, development and dissemination of dryland crops such as; Sorghum, Pigeon peas, cow peas, Pearl millet, Finger millet and Chick peas among others.

In livestock health, we have secured major milestones including the recent development of a new vaccine against the contagious bovine pleuropneumonia (CBPP) as well as production and commercialisation of molasses-urea feed blocks, among others.

In dairy, we are the host of the regional centre of excellence for research and development under projects supported by World Bank. We have a regional resource centre for scientists, milk processing plant for technology demonstration and value addition, and well equipped laboratories. We have specialised in development of adapted Friesian and dual purpose Sahiwal cattle breeds and their crosses to expand dairy production to low potential agro-ecosystems. Using developed local feed resources including grasses, legumes and by-products, we have developed home-made rations formulations.

Our beef cattle programme is breeding and studying Boran cattle production systems. In poultry, KALRO’s improved indigenous chicken is in high demand, whereby, in this year alone, the organisation is expecting to supply over 600,000 chicks.

3.    In your view, what are the main challenges to the agri sector in Kenya?
Like many African countries, Kenya’s agriculture sector is faced with many challenges that include climate. Only 20 percent of the country’s land is arable under rain-fed, while production and productivity of major crops is still low due to minimal use of improved varieties and other agricultural inputs. Farmers lack modern agricultural production skills and knowledge and do not have adequate access to financial and other supportive services. Consequently, majority of the smallholder farmers continue to be poor and food security remains threatened despite our efforts to build the economy.

We have poor mechanisms and infrastructure for sharing and exchanging agriculture knowledge generated from research at national and regional levels which at times result to duplications, hence further constraining meagre resources available for agricultural development.

We also have the inefficient mechanisms and infrastructure for transferring technologies to either directly or through intermediaries (extension sub-system). Knowledge and technologies fostering agricultural production and environment conservation are examples.

Although many extension documents are produced by national agriculture research and extension systems to inform farmers about the latest recommendations concerning different agricultural practices, these documents are not sufficiently disseminated, updated or managed to respond to the needs of extension workers, advisers and farmers. This is also true for technical reports, books and research papers related to production. Forums like the one we are organising will provide us with an opportunity to share information and knowledge with all the actors in the agricultural value chain.

4.    What is your vision for the agriculture sector in Kenya?
We are implementing Kenya’s development blueprint, the Vision 2030 and the government’s Big Four agenda where the agriculture sector is recognised as one of the key drivers of our economic growth. The aim is to transform Kenya into “a newly industrializing, middle income country providing a high quality of life to all its citizens in a clean and secure environment”.

To read the rest of this interview, go to http://www.farmtech-expo-kenya.com/KALRO-interview

Read more about Farm-Tech Expo Kenya: KALRO to host international agricultural expo: Farm-Tech Expo Kenya