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Ministry to merge research institutes

NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 12 – The Ministry of Agriculture said on Monday it was looking into consolidating several research institutions under its wings.

Permanent Secretary Romano Kiome said the move would ensure efficiency of the institutions as well as be more cost effective in terms of management.

“We are putting a mechanism in place to consolidate our institutions so that we are not left with small ones that are not viable going forward,” he said.

Mr Kiome said some of the agricultural research institutions in the country, were too small to warrant operation and adds the move would be one way of keeping costs down.

He said those institutions with operating budgets of less than Sh2 billion were not economically viable and should be merged.

“We have tea, coffee, sugar research, which are relatively small. What we are looking for is if such institutions are able to come together and develop a structure to govern their operations that would ensure they are able to do more collaborative work,” Mr Kiome said.

The PS was however adamant all the research institutions would retain their autonomy, which guarantees that they carry on with research without external interference

Another aspect the PS says would work is if all the institutions came under one umbrella, to run operations from a centralised location.

“From this centralised location they would all be able to run things such as finances, procurement, human resource management which are basically the same across the board,” the PS said.

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Dr Kiome said the move would go a long way in improving the global competitiveness of these institutions.

The proposal is intended to ensure researchers are able to collaborate more in terms of knowledge application.

The integration is set to be complete by mid 2011. As the country continues to grapple with food deficit, Dr Kiome criticised research institutions for not focusing on crops that ensure food security of the country.

“The emphasis has not been in the right direction. We have always focused on industrial crops such as tea, coffee and cereals such as maize and rice,” he said.

Sale of industrial crops contributes close to 60 percent of the country’s GDP and is the largest employer. Dr Kiome said the focus should now turn to other traditional cereals that are ideal for Kenyan conditions such as green grams and pigeon peas.

He believes there is global demand of such cereals, which could foster good fortunes for farmers where they will be selling as well as have enough food for consumption.

“We are at a situation now where a bag of green grams can fetch you more than that of maize,” he said.

The PS was speaking during the launch of the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute’s five-year strategic plan.

The institute plans to focus more on science, technology and innovation to increase agricultural productivity as well as boost the competitive nature of Kenya’s agricultural produce.

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