CABI has worked in Africa for many years, but in 1995 it formally established a regional centre in Nairobi. In Africa over 80% of people living in rural areas rely on the crops they grow for food and for income. They face many challenges in growing sufficient good quality produce, such as changing climatic conditions, threats from pests and diseases, lack of access to markets, and limited access to current agricultural information. Agriculture is essential for sub-Saharan Africa’s economic growth and yet average crop yields in Africa are among the lowest in the world.
CABI’s centre in Kenya strives to improve livelihoods, working with the communities that it serves to address the problems they face using sustainable approaches.
A key element of the centre’s work is helping smallholder commodity growers to produce for and compete in local and global markets. The centre also encourages rural innovation and helps local users access global information and knowledge. Plant health is safeguarded through a range of initiatives, which include the management of invasive species, work to reduce the transmission of harmful pests and diseases through traded goods, the development of safe and effective biological controls, and Plantwise, CABI’s global project to reduce crop losses. CABI’s Good Seed Initiative, which seeks to improve the quality of seed that farmers plant, and thus improve crop yields, is also championed.
The centre works in partnership with many organizations in both the public and private sector, to enable work to be achieved in the most effective and cost efficient way. It collaborates on a national and regional level, working with agricultural extension departments, research centres, producer organisations, NGOs and regulatory agencies. International partners include international research organisations and private sector institutions such as the Rabobank and Illycafè.
The centre’s work has significant social and economic impact. Improved productivity, improved quality, and conformity to market standards enable the region’s farmers to achieve a better income from their produce. The centre also positively impacts the environment, through its promotion of sustainable agriculture, its work to reduce pesticide use and its management of invasive species.
Looking to the future the centre will continue its work in support of CABI’s overarching strategy, and plans to improve its monitoring and evaluation systems, in order to more clearly document its learning and impact.
Director General, Development
Potato is one of the most widely grown crops in Kenya. The sector contributes almost USD 30m per year and employs 3.3 million people. However, the yield has been reducing significantly over the last decade, 12.4 t/ha below the global average of 21 t/ha. This has been attributed to a number of problems but the most important being the high incidence of pests and diseases, some of which are seed and soil-borne. CABI is conducting a surveillance exercise to identify and map the distribution of Pectobacterium and Dickeya species which cause blackleg and soft rots and Clavibacter michiganensis subsp. sepedonicus which causes ring rot. The results from the study will advise on the required regulatory framework for the certification of seed potato and provide information for better management and control.