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Joint Kenya-China project that created one of Kenya's most profitable bean variety


Liu Gaoqiong (second from left), a professor at Nanjing Agricultural University, conducts experiments with his students at the Kenya-China Joint Laboratory for Crop Molecular Biology at Egerton University. Photo credits: China Daily

A joint Kenya-China agricultural laboratory has bred more than two dozen superior crop varieties over the past five years, improving food security for farmers countrywide.

According to experts involved in the project, since the Kenya-China Joint Laboratory for Crop Molecular Biology was established at Egerton University in 2019, it has used molecular breeding to develop 25 crop varieties, 18 of which have been commercialised.

The experts, who spoke to China Daily, said the crops developed are more disease-resistant and give higher yields than traditional crop varieties.

Once the seeds are developed, they are taken to the Agro-Science Park at Egerton University, where seed bulking and commercialisation take place.


Among the improved seeds are five bean varieties, three of which have been put onto the market and have attracted a lot of attention from farmers because of their properties, including their ability to mature early.

One of the most popular is a bean given the name chelalang, a local dialect meaning a kind and beautiful young woman highly prized as a bride.

Mr. Paul Kimurto, the Director of Agro-Science Park, said the bean, put on the market in 2016, can yield up to 25 bags or 2.25 metric tonnes per hectare.

Anna Wanjiku, a farmer in Matangi Tisa village in Nakuru County, says she saw firsthand the superiority of the bean varieties last year.


When heavy rain began falling in August, she planted chelalang and another bean variety called tatton, which is due to be put on the market this August.

While other bean varieties dried up once the rain disappeared, the chelalang and tatton beans were able to withstand dry conditions, Wanjiku said.

“In the upcoming rainy season, I will plant each of the varieties. I am looking forward to a bumper harvest, which of course means increased income,” she told China Daily in an interview.

Mr. Hillary Chelal, a research assistant at Egerton University, said tatton beans have more pods than other varieties and have self-stripping leaves, meaning the beans are easier to harvest, and they can grow at medium and high altitudes, making them popular with canners.


“In partnership with Kilimo Trust, a non-profit organization working on developing agriculture in the East African Community, upland rice that requires little water is also being promoted,” Chelal said.

Kenya imports nearly 85 percent of its rice, even though it could be rice self-sufficient, he said.

Mr. Joseph Orende, a program assistant with the Kilimo Trust, said that by working with Egerton University and training farmers in sustainable rice production techniques, rice production has increased from two tonnes to 3.5 tonnes per hectare within two years.

With proper management, the rice varieties could produce 7-11 tonnes per hectare, he said.

“Looking at what we have been able to achieve in two years, if it is sustained, this collaboration could deliver food security to Africa if replicated in many other areas and several food chains,” he said.




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