The agriculture sector in Kenya has received a significant boost following a partnership between two leading institutions to set up a technology and innovation centre, the first of its kind in East Africa.
Elgon Kenya and the University of Nairobi have signed a Memorandum of Understanding paving the way for constructing the Agricultural Technology and Innovation Centre (ATIC) at the College of Agriculture and Veterinary Services, Upper Kabete Campus in the capital city.
The ATIC will nurture and strengthen innovations in agriculture and entrepreneurship, to foster the adoption of cutting edge innovations leading to job creation and product development, resulting in a thriving agricultural sector for enhanced economic growth for the country.
This comes when agriculture technology incubation centres are becoming instrumental worldwide in translating scientific discoveries into products for economic development.
“The venture is born out of the need to foster a culture of innovation, promote resource mobilization for development and commercialization of market-demanded products and services. At the same time, it will train and mentor innovators and entrepreneurs to increase chances of commercial success and to accelerate the uptake of technology along the agricultural value chains,” said Prof Stephen Kiama, Vice-Chancellor, and the University of Nairobi.
Elgon Kenya Managing Director Dr Bimal Kantaria lauded the partnership, terming it the missing link between research and industry.
“To succeed in agriculture transformation, we need a focal point between research, technology and the industry”, he said.
He added that the Centre would bring together the private sector and academia to showcase new technologies and train students for further transmission to the agriculture community.
Prof Kiama emphasized that despite agriculture being the backbone of the country’s economy, the sector has not been backed by research, leaving farmers at the mercy of cultural and traditional practices leading to low yields affecting food security.
“Agricultural re-engineering ensures the use of the latest scientific technology in designing new machinery for efficiency and effectiveness in agricultural processes’, he said.
Dr Kantaria called on other like-minded institutions that support the agricultural transformation to support ATIC to grow into a centre of excellence and offer the critical nexus between learners, research and industry.
“Students graduating from the university will be sharpened at the centre to instil in them streetsmart skills to provide useful service to the agriculture sector,” he said.
East Africa Community PS Dr Kevit Desai lauded the development, terming it a first in East Africa that will enhance the necessary research needs for the region to inform inter-regional trade in agriculture products and services.
“This is an important initiative in the context of the Big 4 Agenda considering that 70 per cent of Africans are farmers and 50 per cent of Kenya’s manufacturing is agriculture-based thus the establishment will incentivize farmers by enhancing their productivity and efficiency. This Public-Private Partnership centre will advise on policy issues and legislative matters,” noted Dr Desai.
He added that data from research is critical to policy formulation and market intelligence gathering that enable successful trading.
In a related story, The Exchange reported that Kenya’s agriculture sector grew by 5.1 per cent in 2020, thereby preventing a contraction of the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic, which ravaged a majority of other sectors.
Data from Deloitte’s East Africa Economies Report 2021 indicates that the sector remains fundamentally important to the Kenyan economy, contributing about 33 per cent of the GDP and 56 per cent of the employment, both formally and informally.
The report paints mixed performance in the sector in 2020. For instance, as of May 2020, Kenya’s Agricultural sector’s outlook was grim due to the locust swarm infestation affecting domestic agricultural production.
However, as of Q4 2020, the sector reflected a revamped outlook owing to favourable rains and success in beating back the second wave of desert locusts.
“As such, the sector is estimated to have posted a 5.1 per cent growth in 2020, emerging as the silver lining sector,” the report says.