BY PETER MUTAI
The Government has announced plans to upgrade Kericho-based Tea Research Foundation of Kenya (TRFK) in partnership with the Ugandan Government.
TRFK Managing Director, Francis Wachira, said negotiation between the two governments to secure funding for the proposed upgrade is ongoing, and will involves a change in the ownership structure of TRFK, which will become a regional body.
The upgrade, he said, would help improve the research centre’s ability to carry out research on tea for the five East African Community States.
Prof Wachira was speaking during a visit by a delegation of Parliamentary Committee on National Economy and Natural Resources from Uganda, Biraahwa Mukitale Adyeeri, who led the ten-member Ugandan delegation.
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Mukitale said Uganda was keen on the partnership, and is in the process of formulating legislation that would facilitate the use of TRFK facility by Ugandan researchers.
He said there was no need to channel huge resources in putting up a new research station in Uganda or any other East African country when TRFK has the capacity to do the job.
"As members of the community, we want to improve the existing research facilities jointly so that we can exploit its full potential," the MP said.
Wachira said the facility has modern equipment, and close to 413 hectares of land to carrying out research on tea.
Before the collapse of the East African Community in 1977, the centre was known as the Tea Research Institute of East Africa.
"Most of the tea varieties being grown by some tea growing countries in Africa, such as South Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania and Nigeria originated from TRFK," explained Wachira.
TRFK board of directors Chairman Sammy Chepkwony said the centre has made a positive impact in Africa by raising the bar on research that produces high yielding and diseases resistant varieties, which has contributed to the development of tea sector.
He said the TRFK, in collaboration of government and other stakeholders, has made proposals, which are being implemented at various levels to help improve the tea sector.
"Amongst the significant development is the pending Tea Amendment Bill, 2010 that seek to amend the Tea Act to address the challenges facing the sector in terms of research and development.