By Dickens Wasonga.
Insufficient funding by government is hampering agricultural and livestock research activities thus affecting invention of new technology that would help to boost agricultural and livestock production in the sector.
According to the director general of the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) Dr Eliud Kireget, the annual allocation which the organization receives towards its research programs was not enough to enable it effectively carry out the activities and appealed to the government to consider releasing more funds.
Speaking during a agricultural and livestock field day at Kibos on Friday , the Director General, said the Kshs.4.8 billion which it received from the government was insufficient to enable them carry out the numerous research programs its undertaking in its 16 stations in the country.
He said that out of the money allocated ,only Kshs. 300 million will be channeled to research work which is their core mandate while a huge chunk will be consumed on operations and personal emoluments.
The organization, according to him is mandated to carry out innovation and introduce modern technologies in crop production but was relying heavily on donor support to fund its research work which is unsustainable .
“Research is an expensive affair and as such we appeal to the government to consider allocating more resources that will help us come up with innovative ideas in best agricultural practices so that we boost food production and ensure the country is food secure”, he explained.
Dr Kireget said the health and food production, which are among the key pillars the government was keenly focusing on will be boosted by research findings.
He said KALRO requires Kshs. 2 billion annually for research programs being undertaken by the 16 centers dealing in over 400 crop varieties.
He also raised concern over the rising cases of land grabbing targeted at KALRO research stations and appealed to the relevant government agencies to help it curb the problem
. “Currently, KALRO is battling 28 cases in court involving land grabbing and we are forced to use millions of shillings in legal fees that could have been channeled elsewhere”, he said
Dr. Kireget also noted that there was a missing link between research and extension services thus crippling the efforts being made to avail the research findings on innovations and new technologies to the farmers.
” We see a gap between research and extension services and we have embarked on aggressive field day campaigns and use of digital platforms to avail our findings to the people who need it the most ” he said.
KALRO is currently conducting trials on a genetically Modified seed variety code named known as BT-cotton which is said to be resistant to caterpillar-insect which attacks the conventional cotton seed and can cause 100% damage if not controlled on time according to the researchers.
Dr. Charles Waturu who is the KALRO key researcher on Bt- Cotton, the six month study which begin in July next year said the experiments was ongoing in seven study sites in the country which will determine whether the variety is resistant to the insect caterpillar.
The experimental sites are in Kibos, Alupe, Barwesa, Perkera, Mwea, Bura and Matuga.
“The seed variety is believed to protect itself from the devastating caterpillars and this is why we are carrying out a national performance trials in the sites and if its found to be effective then we plan to release it to the market as soon as possible so that farmers can use it”, he explained.
Dr. Foustine Wandera, who is in charge of Livestock research at the organization disclosed that meat products from Kenya was still restricted from accessing the European Union (EU) market owing to diseases and the government was in the process of establishing disease free zones in all the counties to address the challenge.
Dr. Wandera said Livestock identification and tracer system was being carried out in collaboration with farmers for ease of managing the diseases challenge.
“We are losing billions of shillings due to restrictions imposed on our products by the EU market”, he stated.
Among the common diseases that attack cattle in Western Kenya region include; tick bone disease and East Coat Fever which if not checked can kill up to 90% of the livestock.
He said that in poultry Newcastle disease which attacks chicks was the most common in the area.
He revealed that the biggest challenge was lack of quality livestock and poultry feeds as what was being sold in the local market was adulterated by unscrupulous business men out to make a kill at the expense of production of meat and eggs.
To address this, he said, KALRO was currently producing Utafiti feeds which targets to trigger market and in turn create competition for other feeds produced by other players thus ensure quality is not compromised.
Kenya currently has 4.5 million dairy cattle nationally out of which Kisumu county was only keeping a paltry 20000 heads of cattle.
On the other hand Kisumu county only has 2 million indigenous poultry with only 2000 layers which produces 1.3 million trays of eggs annually and thus relies on imports from Uganda and the neighboring counties such as Nandi to bridge the gap.
Dr. Wandera disclosed that the Utafiti feeds was currently producing 10 tones per day which it plans to inject into the market.