The University of Nairobi in collaboration with Elgon Kenya Ltd marked the ground breaking ceremony for the construction of the first of its kind, Kantaria Agricultural Technology and Innovation Centre (KATIC), at the upper Kabete Campus, Faculty of Agriculture. The collaboration addresses the need for enhanced innovation, mentorship and commercialization of innovative technologies and ideas in the agricultural sector, commercial success and to accelerate uptake of technology and innovations along the agricultural value chains.
The overarching goal of the Centre will be to bridge the gap between industry, academia (research and innovation), and the farming communities. It is envisioned that the Centre will foster seamless access to knowledge, learning materials as well as networks and linkages to students, farmers, and all agricultural stakeholders. As one of the leading Agri-input suppliers in the country, Elgon Kenya provides access to the largest variety of Agri-inputs in Kenya ranging from agriculture chemicals, fertilizers, seeds, irrigation equipment, plastic and nets, packaging items and veterinary medicines for farm animals reinforcing its status as Kenya’s premier Agri-inputs supplier.
In his welcoming address, the Vice Chancellor, Prof. S.G. Kiama said that the partnership is unique as it is student centered and focused on providing solutions to the industry. He also thanked Elgon Kenya for providing internship opportunities to 25 students, 6 of whom were absorbed into the company while several others have ventured into their own enterprises. “The Agricultural Technology and Innovation Centre will contribute immensely to advancement of our Vision, which is to be a world-class university committed to scholarly excellence. In addition, the centre is anchored on our mission that is to provide quality university education and training and to embody the aspirations of the Kenyan people and the global community through creation, preservation, integration, transmission and utilization of knowledge”, said Prof. Kiama.
While expressing her delight, the University of Nairobi Chancellor, Dr. Vijoo Rattansi echoed that technology and innovation hold the key for continued food security for the world. She also expressed her appreciation towards the Kantaria family for their support.
The Prime Cabinet Secretary, Hon. Wycliffe Musalia Mudavadi who was the chief guest hailed the project terming it as a timely one. According to Mudavadi, the partnership between Industry and Academia will propel the country to sustainable agricultural development. He also stressed on the importance of agriculture in the nation as it provides primary livelihood source for 60% of the rural population.
“Kenyan’s population is estimated to hit the 55 million mark this year. To meet the rising demands of this rapidly growing population, we must invest and annually increase agricultural production by a minimum 2%” he said
He said a pragmatic solution to the missing links between the University and business development in Kenya lies in the collaboration between institutions of higher learning and industry and partnerships. “While enhancing the innovative capacity of our university graduates through internship programs, also enable universities to deploy industry players to offer practical experiences to enrich students’ learning as guest, visiting or adjunct lecturers. Tailor-made courses, designed and delivered with input from industry, can contribute vastly to molding job-creators and job-compliant graduates” he added.
Elgon Kenya Limited Managing Director, Dr Bimal Kantaria said they will donate between 50 million and 60 million towards the project and urged the government and likeminded partners to extend their support.
“Our concern is what will happen once the Centre is ready, so we are looking for patners. We want anyone who wants to partner with the University to be there”, he said.
Once operational any Kenyan seeking lessons in homegrown agricultural innovations and expertise in a wide range of issues in among others soil fertility management; crop protection and improvement; seedling technology and horticulture; animal production and health, and preventing post-harvest losses will access the centre.
Prof. Amukoa Anangwe (Chairman, Uon Council), Prof. Margaret Hutchinson (DVC RIE), Prof. Julius Ogeng’o (DVC Academic Affairs), French Ambassador to Kenya Arnaud Suquet and India’s High Commisioner Namgya Khampa, also graced the event. The event was also marked with exhibitions showcasing various innovative agricultural technologies.