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Deputy President William Ruto on food production Nairobi, September 27, 2013 DPPS

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Deputy President William Ruto held a meeting with Board members of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, when they paid him a courtesy call at his offices along  Harambee Avenue. - Picture

The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre has opened a modern laboratory at the Kenya Agricultural Research Centre Kiboko. The center is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates to the tune of US dollars 1.2 million.

The laboratory, the only one of its kind in the Third World will strengthen the maize breeding capacity of the national research programs reducing the time and resources spent on conventional breeding from seven seasons to two seasons. 

The laboratory has also benefitted from 3.3 million dollars for research purposes.

At the same time Kari and centre have partnered in tackling the challenge of maize lethal necrosis (MLN) disease which afflicted the crop in the southern rift especially in Trans Mara, Bomett, Narok and Naivasha. 

Meeting the Board of Trustees of centre in his office, Deputy President William Ruto said Kenya will scale up the use of technology and biotechnology in addressing the challenges in food production in the country.

Responding to concerns by the trustees that Kenya might be left behind in modern research methods, The Deputy President clarified that the country had not banned research in GMO.

Instead the country was training its own researchers to do research as the policy on GMO is being reviewed. 

He said it was critical to embrace modern farming techniques in dealing with matters of climate change, seed production, diseases, and post harvest storage methods. 

Mr. Ruto said it was imperative to employ modern research methods in Agriculture so as to grow enough food crops for the rising population in the country.

The Deputy President expressed the Government’s readiness to cooperate with international organizations in doing research and educating Kenyan farmers.

At the same time, He commended the centers initiative at KARI-Njoro aimed at breeding wheat varieties that are resistant to a fungal stem rust disease that threatened the production of the country’s second most important cereal. The wheat program also hosts the international stem rust screening nurseries in East Africa.

The chairman of centre board of trustees Prof. Andrew Barr said his organization was committed to working with the  (KARI) in improving food production in the country.

He said his organization was particularly keen on developing maize seed varieties that can withstand the harsh weather conditions prevalent in the country’s arid and semi arid regions.

Prof. Barr underscored Kenya’s position in agricultural research in the region saying it stood to benefit from the U.S. Dollars 200 million centre has set aside for research work worldwide.

Mulinya/DPPS - September 27, 2013