From making honey to food

September 3, 2008

, NAIROBI, September 3 – Scientists say the country’s food production could increase by 40 percent if the government invested more in research on crop pollination.

Dr Mary Gikungu, head of the Centre for Bees and Pollination told Capital Business on Tuesday that despite a decline in food production, little was known about the role of insects as crop pollinators.

“Tea and coffee production in the country has declined over the years but farmers are only relying on fertilizer to correct this situation,” she observed.

“We cannot have seed fruits without pollination and therefore we need to understand the classification of bees and their role in pollination and food production.”

Speaking during the opening of a Centre for Bees and Pollination at the National Museums of Kenya, Gikungu said the institution required about Sh100 million to build capacity in ecology and taxonomy of crop pollinators in the country.

Taxonomy is the study of organisms while classifying them into groups according to similarities in structure and origin. 

“This money will be used to train Masters and PhD holders in parataxonomy and conduct seminars with farmers countrywide on how to take advantage of this science,” she explained.

The National Museums of Kenya has conducted research over the past nine years in collaboration with a German agency but has now set up a fully fledged centre to attract more funding.

Gikungu revealed that the study was mainly concentrated in Western Kenya. The centre is however expected to expand the research to other parts of the country.

She said at least 30 people had been trained through the project but added that the country needed at least 50 specialists in bee taxonomy.

Agriculture Minister William Ruto who was present at the opening of the centre urged the private sector to partner with the government in ensuring more investment in research.

Ruto noted that increased investment in research would assist in value addition for locally manufactured goods.

“There is value for all of us; not just for the government, but for the manufacturers of seeds, for the businessmen and thus the need for all of us to invest in research,” he emphasised.

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