NEWS SERVICE REPORTS
FROM THE AFRICAN
gene bank to add
new Kenya species
diversity of plant genetic resources in Kenya
the recent past been on the decline due to
REPORT BY XINHUA CORRESPONDENT David
(Xinhua) -- At
Ndeiya Agriculture Show in Kiambu County, in
central Kenya, a group of youth attending the show
as part of their training on better farming
methods were amazed when they saw red and brown
colored maize comb.
Siringi, a scientist working with Kenya
Agriculture Research Institute (KARI) was at pains
to explain that the maize comb has not been
painted but rather it is one of the maize species
at the risk of total extinction.
is a species of maize that was grown long time
ago,” Siringi told Xinhua on Saturday.
Nyokabi, a 67-year-old grandmother also took time
to explain to the group of the youth that when she
was young, all the maize grown by the villagers
was red in color. The white maize came in much
remember during the harvest, in the 1960s and
70s, most of the maize was red, then
progressively, the new seeds from the government
produced white-colored maize,” said Nyokabi.
red-colored maize comb is on display as part of
the National Gene Bank of Kenya’s showcase of
the type of crops genes it preserves at its
laboratory at KARI Muguga, one of the institutes
located about 40 km west of the capital Nairobi.
gene bank was started in 1988 with the intention
of preserving the genes that were becoming
extinct,” she said.
essentially collect materials from farmers and
test viability of their value. This gives the
capability of that material for instance to be
re-multiplied. For materials to be kept in the
gene bank, they must have genetic viability
status of 85 percent to 100 percent so that they
can be productive in future, “ she added.
to KARI, the diversity of plant genetic resources
in Kenya has in the recent past been on the
decline due to genetic erosion brought about
mainly by desertification, population pressure on
land, changes in land use, over-exploitation,
drought, floods and negative agricultural
no comprehensive study has been undertaken to
quantify the level of genetic erosion, reports
indicated that over the last decade, a lot of
genetic erosion has taken place mainly due to
replacement of traditional varieties and other
socio- economic factors,” noted a KARI report
on gene bank.
to preserve genetic materials are ongoing across
the world driven by the fear that climate change
will change the world in the near future.
instance, successive studies indicated climate
change will increase average temperature of
Sub-Sahara Africa by 2 degrees centigrade by 2050.
As a result, major climatic changes will be
experienced leading to loss of some crops.
crops preserved in the gene banks will therefore
be multiplied to create new crop species and
re-engineered to adopt to the new climatic
and other institutions that require the preserved
materials for multiplication or research are given
the seeds for free.
we advice farmers is that if they want to get
harvest of similar species, they have to grow
these seeds at least 400 meters from similar
crops to avoid cross pollination,” according
to the KARI.
to International Union for Conservation of Nature,
there is an estimated total of 7,500 plant species
growing naturally in Kenya. Of these, about 475
are national endemics while 258 are threatened.
the National Gene Bank of Kenya, an estimated
1,725 crop species, from food crops to trees and
shrubs, are preserved.
ensure that the seeds kept are genetically viable,
they are tested regularly and those with low
viability are taken to the fields where they are
grown and multiplied to increase their genetic
KARI also maintains other gene banks for crops
such as cassava and others that cannot be
preserved through seeds harvesting.
to the gene bank’s report submitted to the Food
and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the Kenyan
National Plant Genetic Resources Programme was
established in 1988. The National Genebank
collaborates with a number of institutions and
stakeholders but overall coordination among them
is no particular institution or agency charged
with the responsibility of coordination. There
is need for an authority to coordinate plant
genetic resources matters in the country,
preferably a National Biodiversity Center,”
notes the report.
spells affect Kenya’s
food security: experts
(Xinhua) -- Kenya’s food security has
minimally been affected by dry spells after the
start of the short rains in October that slowed
recovery following timely onset of the
October-December short rains, food security
experts said in a report published on Friday.
to Famine Early Warning Systems (FEWS Net), a dry
spell hit in late October and early November in
parts of the southeastern marginal mixed farming
livelihood zone where households have exhausted
the onset of the October to December short rains
was timely, the amount of rain in most areas
tended to be below average. The start was
succeeded by a dry spell which started in late
October and extended through early November,”
FEWS Net said in its November Food Security
far, it said the short rains have been poorly
distributed both over time and over space in the
southeastern marginal agricultural lowlands and in
report comes as the government says the country
will have sufficient maize to feed its 40 million
people until the start of the next planting season
in the coming year.
from the East African nation’s ministry of
agriculture indicated that the country will have
over 37 million 90kg bags of maize as at March 31,
2013 against the required consumption of 22.3
country’s 40 million people consume 3.72 million
90kg bags of maize every month. The number rose
from 3.6 million bags months ago.
available stocks by March 31, 2013 will be 37.2
million bags of maize,” said the ministry in
the food security report issued on Nov. 1.
bulk of the maize will come from harvests from
crops planted during the long and short rains
season and imports from the neighbouring
East African nation is focusing on sustained
growth in agriculture production in terms of
environmental conservation and revenue generation.
to publish on Friday, casual labour opportunities
increased from September to October with land
preparation and planting in the southeastern and
the increase in casual labor income did not
compensate for high maize prices and higher
levels of market dependency, leaving some poor
households in crisis,” it said.
report noted that in pastoral livelihood zones,
environmental conditions have improved since the
start of the October to December short rains,
adding that livestock body conditions are fair.
report says milk production is slowly increasing,
and livestock prices area well above their
five-year averages. However, high above average
maize prices continued to impede households’
above average rains in the high potential maize
growing areas of western Kenya including around
Eldoret and Kitale in the maize belt requires a
new assumption that these rains will disrupt the
just started October to February harvest and
increase pre- and post-harvest losses,” it
East Africa nation says it will begin to engage
farmers in order to promote climate smart
agricultural technologies which allow them to
adapt to the effects of climate change.
ministry of agriculture says that the Kenya
Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) will supply
seeds and planting material of drought tolerant
crops for the vulnerable arid and semi arid lands
of the country.
agricultural sector has also embarked on efforts
to transform key institutions in the agriculture
and livestock industry with the aim to increasing
efficiency of service delivery.
is later this month expected to enact laws that
are required to implement key reforms including
the national seed policy, national agricultural
extension policy and national food and nutrition
Net says continued improvements in the
availability of pasture, browse, and water are
expected to increase livestock productivity across
the pastoral areas.
resultant increased milk availability and enhanced
terms of trade are expected to improve household
food access leading to better nutritional status.
the report said the poor rainfall distribution is
likely to be beneficial as water- and vector-borne
diseases are not expected to be significant.
availability of short cycle crops including
vegetables is increasing in the southeastern and
coastal lowlands, late planting and replanting
may delay crop harvests,” it said.
report said the start of the October to December
short rains was poorer than assumed in October and
this leads to a revision of several previous
it said the overall deviation from the outcomes
from the October to March 2013 Outlook Report may
it was assumed that the October to December
short rains would be average to above average
with a timely onset and somewhat uneven
distribution over time and space, it is assumed
that to the overall total rainfall during the
October to December short rains will be near
average but with uneven temporal and spatial
distribution,” FEWS Net said.
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