The government of Kenya together with partners has applauded ICRISAT for its 50 years of scientific innovation and impact in the drylands. During the 50th anniversary celebrations in Kenya, Principal Secretary, State Department for Development of the Arid and Semi Arid Lands (ASALs), Micah Powon, praised ICRISAT’s work, in partnership with the government and other stakeholders, in building resilient agri-food systems through which millions of lives have been transformed economically and nutrition-wise. Mr Micah Powon noted that with the already established partnerships, the country is in the process of realizing food and nutrition security as well as boosting incomes to improve the livelihoods of the people.
“This is especially through the development of hundreds of improved seed varieties and several agricultural technologies for the semi-arid areas,” the Principal Secretary expounded adding that for a very long time, a huge number of Drought Tolerant Crops (DTCs) farmers used to recycle seeds but today, there is a notable number that has adopted the improved varieties of dryland cereals and legumes.
The Government of Kenya recognizes the potential contribution of ASALs towards the achievement of Vision 2030 Strategy, a long-term development blueprint motivated by a collective aspiration for a better society by the year 2030. According to Powon, this demonstrates a shared vision with ICRISAT in ensuring that Kenyans living in the ASALs are food and nutrition secure and can generate income from farming.
“Through various joint projects, ICRISAT has built systems to link farmers to markets and a good example is Feed the Future-Accelerated Value Chain Development (FtF-AVCD) project funded by USAID, which helped establish 38 aggregation centers in six ASAL counties; 6000 farmers were successfully linked to markets, specifically in Elgeyo Marakwet County, where groundnut farmers earned KShs 25 million from sales through this initiative,” Powon said.
The Principal Secretary assured ICRISAT of the government’s commitment to continue the collaboration, especially to support development of research infrastructure
ICRISAT Director General, Dr. Jacqueline Hughes, noted that building inclusive, sustainable, and resilient food systems and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is a priority for ICRISAT in sub-Saharan Africa.
“As ICRISAT moves forwards into the next 50 years, we strongly believe that partnerships are the only way in which global challenges can be tackled, and the best local solutions created. Partnerships are critical at all steps of agricultural research and innovation for development to: Better understand local and diverse needs; Advocate for appropriate approaches and solutions; Produce cutting edge science; Ensure sustainable solutions; and Assure uptake and scaling,” explained Dr. Hughes.
The Director General assured partners and donors of ICRISAT’s commitment to building on our 50 years of research, impact, and experience as well as on the coveted Africa Food Prize 2021 award. “We are already building the momentum for the UN International Year of Millets 2023 and are already planning with India and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on what we can do, with our partners, and on timelines. I assure you that ICRISAT will transcend research and delivery boundaries to build productive, resilient, sustainable, inclusive, healthy and profitable food systems for the drylands,” added the Director General.
“Urbanization and rising incomes are changing food choices, changing lifestyles and dietary habits, therefore give rise to new opportunities and food processors can cash in on these opportunities by developing ready-to-cook or ready-to-eat products with forgotten crops as the primary ingredient,” Dr Jacqueline Hughes, ICRISAT Director General said.
Dr. Malu Ndavi, Lead Technical Specialist Management of Agricultural Research grants at International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) said that with the ongoing challenges of climate change, environmental conservation is very important. Additionally, Dr. Ndavi stressed on the need to attract youth into agriculture through digitalization of agriculture which will help tackle unemployment.
He emphasized on strategic partnership noting that donors like the European Union is pushing a lot on sub-regional bodies like ASARECA, CCARDESA, CORAF, and FARA as they harmonize engagements with National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) in various regions. He added that north-south, south-south partnerships, are key in agricultural research and innovation for development.
Prof. Richard Mulwa, acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Administration, Planning and Development at Egerton University testified that the university has done a lot of research in partnership with ICRISAT to not only enhance uptake of DTCs in ASALs but also introduce the crops where they were not traditionally grown.
“Egerton has worked with ICRISAT to enhance food security in the dry areas of Rift Valley region especially Kerio Valley and Baringo through interventions such as distribution of improved varieties of DTCs among other Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) and Post Harvesting Practices (PHH),” narrated Prof. Mulwa. Notably, with support from Tropical Legumes II and III Projects, Egerton managed to release four varieties of chickpea that are now grown in Bomet and Baringo, participated in the release of one pigeonpea variety that is being produced in Marigat and Kerio Valley, and sponsored 25 students for training on various agricultural concentrations especially crop breeding. The learning institution has also released two finger millets varieties in partnership with ICRISAT.
Mrs. Catherine Mbili from Kathonzweni, Makueni County, has embraced farming of DTCs and is now making better income. She cultivates sorghum, millets, and green grams on her two-acre farm and trains farmers on cultivating DTCs. This is after undergoing training on GAPs and PHH by ICRISAT through FtF-AVCD program in 2015. Mrs. Mbili testified that through a farmer group that she and other farmers stablished, Twone Mbee Mukolekya, they do collective marketing, value addition of DTCs and village saving and lending. ICRISAT supplied the group with foundation seeds which they initially did not have access to. They sold the seeds to the locals, and even though the group cannot meet the demands, they are able to lessen the challenge of seed shortage.
Through DTCs that are highly nutritious, Twone Mbee Mukolekya help families meet their nutritional value hence fight malnutrition, but also contributes towards attaining food security since the farmers harvest high yields and sell the surplus, thereby improving the living standards of the farmers and their families.
ICRISAT works closely with Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperatives (MoALFC), the Kenya Agricultural & Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), State Department for Development of the ASALs (SDDA) along with the private sector and other key stakeholders to build resilient livelihoods, capacitate farmers with climate-smart agricultural technologies among them resilient varieties of sorghum, pearl millet, finger millet, groundnut, pigeonpea and chickpea. Through collaboration with KALRO, ICRISAT has released 13 varieties comprising of sorghum, pearl millet, finger millet, and pigeon pea which are now helping meet food and nutrition needs and have become income generators in Kenya and beyond. Future collaborative research activities between KALRO and ICRISAT will continue to focus on bilateral research in various fields, sharing and exchange of germplasm and breeding lines, infrastructural improvement and training at undergraduate and postgraduate levels.
ICRISAT developed its Strategic Plan 2021-2025 with a vision for a prosperous, food secure, and resilient dryland tropics. The Plan aligns with Kenyan government efforts towards achieving one of the four pillars of the President’s Big Four Agenda −food security− and Vision 2030’s Third Medium Term Plan which is currently being driven by the Big Four Agenda.