The name of Opposition leader Raila Odinga is among those picked to identify bean varieties developed during an eight-year research to improve agricultural yields in five counties.
Researchers said farmers had named one of the bean varieties Raila because of its crisp dark tone similar to the pigmentation of the towering opposition leader.
The bean is one of the popular varieties identified as best suited for growing in coffee zones and lower regions in Tharaka Nithi, Embu and Meru counties during the project called the Maize-Legume Cropping Systems for Food Security in Eastern and Southern Africa (SIMLESA).
The Australian funded project by the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research (Karlo) was running in the Eastern region counties as well as Bungoma and Siaya counties in Western Kenya.
Farmers are routinely asked to identify a name for crop varieties developed by Karlo and some of the other names picked for other popular varieties include Mwende, a Kamba name for a girl for a bean that has little gas when cooked.
Kendi (a Meru girl’s name) has also been picked for a popular variety of pigeon peas tested under the Simlesa project while another variety under this category has been given the local name Ndombolo.
Researchers such as Dr Alfred Micheni of the Karlo Embu station who was an agronomist in the project said Ndombolo had not been a very popular variety among farmers.
The adoption of the opposition leader’s name for the bean variety is not a novel. In the past few, a bean variety had been named Saitoti, again because of its skin tone similar to late former vice president Prof George Saitoti.
Another bean variety developed during the 1980s was given the name Nyayo apparently in recognition of the political era of retired president Daniel Moi.
Dr Micheni said under the Simlesa project, various maize varieties have been developed for the coffee zones and lower regions in the Mt Kenya East counties. Also identified are at least seven livestock fodder varieties suitable for the areas as researchers persuade farmers to abandon the use of farm residue to feed their animals.
“Using residue as fodder robs the farm important nutrients for regeneration and leaves the land without important mulching cover,” said Dr Charles Nkonge, Simlesa project coordinator.
Karlo Director General Dr Eliud Kireger said at the meeting that for the first time in a decade, world hunger has risen once more to affect an estimated 815 million people.
“Sub-Saharan Africa has become the only region where the number of undernourished people has consistently increased since the beginning of the decade with over 30 percent of children under five being stunted – the highest rate in the world,” said Dr Kireger in a speech read on his behalf by Assistant Director Dr Anthony Esilaba.
Over 81,000 poorly resourced and highly vulnerable farmers in Kenya have been assisted to test more productive and resilient practices that best fitted their own circumstance and investment capacity.
The Karlo DG said farmers needed to change a strongly held practice of planting recycled seed with the anomaly currently affecting 31 percent.
The project reported that farmers achieved maize and bean yields of 4.5 and 2 tonnes per hectare respectively, compared to 1.6 tonnes per hectare and 0.5 tonnes per hectare among farmers not participating in the program.