Representatives from British universities discuss blue economy growth and food production at Kenya’s JKUAT

Dr Jake Bishop from Reading University in Kenya
Dr. Bishop makes his presentation on how weather can change interactions between crops and beneficial organisms. Photo: JKUAT

Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture & Technology (JKUAT) yesterday hosted a Newton-Utafiti workshop in partnership with Newcastle University on the future of marine manufacturing in support of the blue economy growth in Kenya.

The Newton-Utafiti Fund takes its name from ‘utafiti’, a Swahili word that means ‘research’, and is being administered in partnership with the Kenyan Ministry of Education.

The Newton-Utafiti Fund has identified a number of priority areas which are: food security; sustainable and renewable energy; health; environment and climate change; economic transition skills and jobs through manufacturing for SMEs, governance; conflict resolution and security along with cross cutting issues, including capacity building, big data, innovation and entrepreneurship.

Newton-Utafiti workshop JKUAT
The Newton-Utafiti workshop at JKUAT. Photo: Twitter/lilianwanjohi2

Yesterday’s workshop followed the visit of Dr Jake Bishop from Reading University’s School of Agriculture, Policy and Development, who delivered a keynote address based on the findings of his research to postgraduate students and staff of the School of Food and Nutritional Sciences on Thursday (30 May).

Discussing his study, titled “How weather can change interactions between crops and beneficial organisms such as animal pollinators, natural enemies of pests and Rhizobia bacteria”, Dr Bishop said climate change prediction models have indicated that food production in the future will be a challenge due to increased temperature and fluctuating rainfall patterns.

He added that 75% of staple crops globally, rely on insect pollinators which he warned were being phased out by climate change.

Dr Bishop, who based his research on faba bean and wheat pollination, revealed that high temperatures damage plants at key stages such as flowering and early seed development. He expressed his concern that food production could plummet around the world with the possible extinction of pollinator populations.

To avert this catastrophe, he recommended that it was time for human kind to revise the global food security agenda by either producing plants that depend less on the pollinators or conserve the pollinators.

Professor Willis Owino, a lecturer in JKUAT’s Department of Food Science and Technology said the research findings can be used to utilize historical trends of climatic data to estimate likelihood of either heat or rainfall stress in Kenya.

The co-principle investigator in collaborative research between the University of Reading, JKUAT and Technical University of Mombasa also underscored the significance of sensitizing small holder farmers on the relationship between plants and animal pollinators saying, “it will guide them on the specific choices on what to produce and minimize crop losses due to unfavorable weather conditions.”

In a bid to identify what is the causative factors for agricultural losses and how to address them, he urged the postgraduate students to pick up practical research thesis in order to collect data on agricultural production.

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