The Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (Kari) is opening a centre in Turkana, as its first new research centre in three years, as part of a drive to extend and concentrate its research on solutions for farmers in arid and semi-arid areas.
The Turkana centre will be KARI's 26th Center ia, but only its third in arid and semi arid areas, adding to the research already underway at Garissa, Marsabit and Kathumani.
The other 23 centres are located in the one-fifth of Kenya that is not arid or semi-arid.
“We are now shifting attention to these areas because we feel we have made inroads in areas that are traditionally known to be productive like Rift Valley and Central Kenya. We are therefore rededicating our efforts to the arid areas, because we strongly feel they are among the areas that are already bearing the brunt of change in weather,” said Alfred Kung'u a scientist at KARI.
The Turkana centre will focus on technologies to spur commercial farming of crops and fish in the region, said Kari director Ephraim Mukisira, and has involved recruiting new scientists and purchasing modern scientific equipments, including for crop breeding and greenhouse technologies.
It has also been an effort pursued in partnership. “We are working with partners like the Kenya Forestry Research Institute to establish this centre,” says Mr Mukisira.
Despite having weather conditions that enable crops to mature faster, Turkana has performed badly agriculturally with 70 per cent of the residents in the county dependent on relief food.“What they need are crops suited for their area and KARI has numerous varieties of such, so we will support them fully,”says Mukisira.
These new farming technologies, together with the discovery of oil in Turkana, are expected to lift many residents from poverty and open up the region for more investments.
Turkana currently produces 20,000 bags of maize a year, while demand in the region stands at 780,000 bags a year, to feed the population which, according to 2009 census, is 855,000.
Written by Bob Koigi for African Laughter
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