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KALRO launches 2nd Strategic strategic plan aligned with BETA

The government’s focus is on promoting sustainable agricultural practices that increase crop yields, manage post-harvest losses, conserve natural resources, protect biodiversity, and mitigate climate change effects.

Dr. Kipronoh Ronoh, Principal Secretary, State Department for Agriculture said prioritising development and dissemination of climate-smart agricultural technologies such as introduction of drought-tolerant crop varieties, implementing water-efficient irrigation techniques, adopting integrated pest management strategies and mechanising agricultural processes is therefore essential.

Dr. Ronoh was speaking Tuesday during the official launch of the 2nd Kenya Agricultural Livestock Research Organisation’s (KALRO) Strategic Plan 2023–24–2027–28, which is aligned to the government’s Bottom-Up Economic Transformation Agenda (BETA).

The PS however said that despite extreme weather events, erratic climate patterns, and the adverse impacts of climate change, Kenya’s agriculture sector has demonstrated remarkable resilience contributing on average 22 percent of the country’s GDP annually.

“Agriculture plays a vital role in sustaining livelihoods, ensuring food security, and driving overall economic growth. By investing in climate-smart agriculture and mechanisation, we can ensure that farmers are better equipped to adapt to changing environmental conditions and mitigate the impacts of climate change on crop production,” he said.

Kenya’s food systems, he noted, are in the middle of a digital revolution, highlighting the need for access to technology and digital connectivity for all stakeholders in the sector for dissemination of real-time agricultural information.

Digital agriculture, the PS added, significantly boosts crop productivity and resilience by empowering farmers to make informed decisions and improve their farming practices.

“Utilising digital technologies is vital for advancing the shared objectives of ensuring food security, alleviating poverty, and promoting environmental sustainability,”  he said.

He acknowledged the valuable contribution of KALRO in aligning its strategic plan with the government’s BETA noting that KALRO’s efforts to address climate change issues through the development of drought-tolerant varieties within the BETA value chains, as well as tackling emerging pests and diseases associated with climate change, are commendable.

“I am pleased to recognise that KALRO’s strategic plan aims to prioritise the critical issue of addressing the shortage of quality seeds. By producing basic seeds for the BETA crops, KALRO is taking a proactive step towards ensuring the availability of certified seeds, which is essential for enhancing agricultural productivity and  resilience,” Dr. Rono said.

Dr. Eliud Kireger, Director General KALRO said the strategy’s key areas will be focused on bolstering crop and livestock productivity and quality, advancing sustainable practices and technology in agriculture, and utilising biotechnology for comprehensive development.

He added that it will also be advancing knowledge dissemination and practical training centres, as well as fostering county-level innovation networks for crop and livestock development, enhancing seed production, defining research priorities for crop and livestock in the country and also creating a funding framework for agricultural research.

Dr. Kireger explained that in order to implement the strategy in the period given, a total of Sh55 billion will be required.

“We will be sourcing funding from allocations from the national government, grants and contributions from development partners, private sector partnerships, collaborative through Collaborative Projects  and also internally generated revenue,”  he said.

Between 2017 and 2022, Dr. Kireger said KALRO had already developed and released 109 crop varieties, commercialised 47 varieties, distributed 69 million clean planting materials and produced 9,470 metric tonnes of basic and certified seeds.

“In those five years, we have also developed 250 crop protection technologies, empowered farmers with climate-smart technologies for enhanced productivity and climate resilience and developed 15 technologies to reduce postharvest losses and sustain productivity gains,”  he added.

In the livestock sector, Dr. Kireger said they had distributed nationwide 657 dual-purpose cattle breeds, 655 sheep and goats, and over 1.7 million improved indigenous chickens.

KALRO, he added, had also disseminated 13 improved livestock management practices and developed and released 29 new grass varieties, formulated 25 on-farm feed rations and developed a thermostable Newcastle disease vaccine, and developed two medications for trypanosomiasis and deworming.

“We have also introduced beneficial insects: black soldier fly for feed, green bottle fly for medical use, stingless bees for honey, and biocontrol agents. We launched silkworm-derived feed, constructed a milk processing plant, established a feed processing unit and increased hatchery capacity for KALRO-improved indigenous  chicken,” Dr. Kireger said.

The DG acknowledged the government and the development partners whose funding and support he said have been pivotal for KALRO to achieve the milestone so far made while at the same time also appreciating national, regional and international strategic partnerships.

KALRO, a government body that streamlines the operations of the National Agricultural Research System (NARS), has 17 research institutes located across the country.

The institutes are responsible for implementation of the organisation’s research agenda through a network of 21 research centres and 34 sub-centers covering all the agro-ecological zones in Kenya.

By Wangari Ndirangu

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