By Eric Wainaina
Kenya: Four universities in the country are in a joint research project that aims to enhance production, value addition and marketing of African indigenous Vegetables (AIVs) in Kenya.
The project will take one year and is focusing on cow peas, spider plant, nightshades, amaranth, pumpkin, French beans and mushrooms and is being undertaken in Butere and Mumias in Kakamega County.
Mount Kenya University (MKU), Egerton University, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science & Technology, the University of Nairobi’s College of Agriculture and Veterinary Sciences, Chuka University and National Museums of Kenya are the institutions behind the study.
MKU Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of research and development John Huria, is leading the project that is meant to boost and commercialise vegetable farming in the country.
The findings, according to Prof Huria will be implemented in collaboration with county service units and other agencies in the focal areas to ensure effectiveness.
He said Kenya is endowed with a wide range of agro-ecological zones for vegetable production ranging from the coastal lowlands to upper highlands that can allow production of a wide array of high value horticultural crops.
This potential, he said has remained unexploited and the production and quality of AIVs has remained low due to low input of nutrients, lack of appropriate cropping systems, infection by pests and diseases and other problems related to agronomic practices.
The don said AIV post-harvest losses in Kenya are estimated to be about 50 per cent.
He attributed the huge losses to poor harvesting and post-harvest handling practices that result in rapid deterioration due to mechanical, physiological and microbial factors, which affect both quantity and quality. Other major constraints, he said, include lack of certified seeds and inadequate production of required volumes of high-quality AIVs to meet increasing market demand.