KENYA – Kenya is set to unveil a cutting-edge laboratory facility worth Ksh 260 million (USD 2 million).

The laboratory will be stationed at the KEPHIS Plant Quarantine and Biosecurity Station at Muguga, serving as a center of excellence in agricultural research and innovation.

With an annual capacity to handle thousands of samples, the facility is poised to become a cornerstone of agricultural advancement in the region.

It promises to expedite the testing and release of new crop varieties, significantly boosting farm productivity and incomes for farmers across the country.

Conventionally, the processing of new planting materials has been a lengthy ordeal, spanning between 10 to 13 years. However, with the inauguration of this state-of-the-art laboratory, this timeline is expected to be slashed dramatically to less than five years.

Spearheaded by the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) in collaboration with the International Potato Centre (CIP) and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), the facility marks a pivotal milestone in agricultural innovation.

Dubbed the Roots, Tubers, and Bananas-East Africa Germplasm Exchange Laboratory (RTB-EAGEL), the facility is designed to preserve and enhance the genetic diversity of crucial crops essential for food security and sustainable agricultural development in East Africa.

Prof. Theophilus Mutui, Managing Director of KEPHIS, emphasized the laboratory’s role in facilitating the exchange of germplasm among breeding programs and national agricultural research partners.

The RTB-EAGEL lab will serve as a nexus for various interventions aimed at bolstering agricultural productivity.

These include expediting the testing and release of new crop varieties, managing pests and diseases, and providing high-quality seeds to the agricultural sector.

Services offered by the laboratory encompass internationally accredited diagnostics, pathogen elimination, genotyping, and regional distribution of germplasm.

Collaborative efforts and government support

Dr. Morag Ferguson from IITA highlighted the collaborative effort behind the initiative, emphasizing the role of partnerships in facilitating the swift dissemination of new crop varieties to farmers.

The project has garnered support from the Kenyan government and sponsors like GIZ, underlining a commitment to advancing agricultural research and development.

Elly Otieno, a scientist from CIP, emphasized the importance of addressing challenges such as seed quality and data accessibility.

By streamlining the process of cleaning planting materials and establishing a centralized germplasm database, the project aims to empower breeders to access a wide range of crop varieties tailored to specific traits, thereby enhancing food security and resilience to climate change.

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