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NEWS: NIAB to support smallholder community farms in Kenya

04 March 2015

NIAB has secured £147,000 funding from BBSRC for a two year £225,000 Agri-Transfer project in Kenya to support the uptake of new crop varieties by smallholder farmers and promote new agricultural and dissemination technologies.

Part of the Flexible Interchange Programme (FLIP), a BBSRC initiative that supports the exchange of knowledge, technology and skills between people from different research backgrounds, the Agri-Transfer partnership includes NIAB, the Kenyan Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO, formerly KARI), and two charitable development organisations - the Malaysian Centre for Commonwealth Studies (MCSC) and the Cambridge Malaysian Education and Development Trust (CMEDT).

Agri-Transfer will pull together the diverse and complementary expertise of these partner organisations to develop a workable and sustainable dissemination model for agronomic data collected on new crop varieties (using wheat as the test crop) for smallholder farmers in Kenya. It addresses the widespread problem in developing countries that a full understanding of the potential benefits of improved crop varieties and advancements in agricultural technology is often not realised.

Many farmers do not have access to quality seed of the new varieties, nor the agronomic information required for optimal production, and poorly functioning agricultural extension services are a major barrier to the implementation of advances in agricultural research and technologies. These issues affect all crops which lack a strong formal seed system and are a bottleneck in making effective use of all public sector agricultural R&D.

The project will work with two self-help, farm-based organisations in Nakuru County, Kenya where farmers will run Dr Lesley Boydwheat field trials of new Kenyan wheat varieties under the direction of KALRO and NIAB. The use of an ICT-based platform developed by MCSC and CMEDT, together with other methods currently used by NIAB and KALRO, will be evaluated as methods of disseminating data obtained from the field trials to smallholder farmers.

NIAB’s Dr Lesley Boyd said: “The rare combination of expertise offered by the whole Agri-Transfer team will prove to be a powerful means to free the bottlenecks suffered in many developing countries. We can replicate our experience in Kenya elsewhere, and bring a new and sustainable solution to a long-standing problem.”