Instrumental AccessInstrumental Access 2019:
Karatina University
Department of Agricultural Sciences

In Kenya, equipping a new laboratory building for research and teaching in agricultural sciences

  • Students work in the lab at Karatina University

    Students at work in the lab at Karatina University

  • Karatina University aquaculture

    Karatina University staff train members of the local community on aquaculture

  • Karatina University

    Karatina University laboratories

  • Karatina maize

    Researchers from Karatina University visit local farmers to learn about maize handling and take soil samples

  • Karatina University is located in an important agricultural production area. Besides having a cool tropical climate, it has fertile red volcanic soil.

  • Karatina University

    Labs in the Department of Agricultural Sciences at Karatina University await Instrumental Access equipment.

Meet our Awardee

Established in 2013, Karatina University is among Kenya’s newest independent public universities.

Originally a training institute for Kenya’s tea industry, the campus was affiliated with Moi University (a three-time Instrumental Access awardee) before gaining independence.

The surrounding area is one of Kenya’s most productive agricultural regions, known for its fertile red volcanic soils and lush green tea fields. 

The Department of Agricultural Sciences offers seven academic programs in agricultural disciplines. The anchor program, the Bachelor of Science in Horticultural Science and Management, was developed with stakeholders in Kenya's horticulture industry to meet the specific needs of the labor market.

Research Areas

The Department’s research is focused on agriculture, including  innovative methods to control crop plant pathogens and pests, micropropagation of planting materials, management of post-harvest food contaminants, animal nutrition and feeding, land use management, and agricultural economics and engineering.

It is important for us to give our students hands-on training. As a result, graduates compete successfully in the labor market. Their knowledge, skill, and competence enable them to transition smoothly from school to employment."

-Agnes W. Kihurani, PhD, Head of the Department of Agricultural Sciences, Karatina University

Safeguarding Kenya's Maize Supply: Dr. Grace Kamotho


Maize grown in Kenya

Maize is a staple food crop grown throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa.

In Kenya, maize is grown primarily by subsistence farmers and commonly eaten as a boiled cornmeal paste called ugali.

While maize has many advantages as a cereal crop, it also has a big drawback: it is particularly susceptible to contamination with molds that produce dangerous chemicals called aflatoxins.

Exposure to aflatoxins can result in serious health issues including liver damage, cancer, and birth defects.

Outbreaks of acute aflatoxin poisoning are not unusual in Kenya, particularly in the Lower Eastern region of the country.

Although it is notoriously difficult to detect, chronic exposure to smaller amounts of the toxin is also a serious health concern. Children are particularly vulnerable.

Dr. Grace Kamotho

Tired of reading about deaths from aflatoxin-contaminated maize in the news, Grace Kamotho, PhD, (pictured at right) a lecturer of horticulture and plant biotechnology in the Department of Agricultural Science at Karatina University, decided to use her expertise to help farmers protect their own families and the food supply.

"The deaths in the afflicted region were reported every year when heavy rains occurred," says Dr. Kamotho. "We felt that the situation needed to be arrested."

Dr. Kamotho's research focuses on understanding post-harvest handling of maize by farmers, as well as aflatoxin contamination levels in maize and soil samples.

Eventually, she hopes to develop aflatoxin-resistant strains of maize that will flourish in impacted regions of Kenya.

Due to lack of equipment, most of the her lab work thus far has to be conducted at neighboring institutions more than 100 miles away, delaying lectures and incurring costs.

But Dr. Kamotho hopes that the Instrumental Access shipment will enable her and her students to conduct more analyses on campus, accelerating research while saving time and money.

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Karatina University
Equipment will help staff unleash their scientific innovations for challenges in agriculture. It will stimulate inquisitive students to positively impact and transform societies."
-Dr. Grace Kamotho, lecturer, Karatina University
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About the Department

Location: Karatina, Kenya
Year Established: 2013
Number of Faculty: 34
Number of Students Impacted Annually: 2,100 undergraduate, 100 graduate

Why Instrumental Access?

Karatina is a newly-independent university that has experienced rapid growth in student numbers.

The Kenyan government has invested in infrastructure, including a new science resource center to house modern labs and lecture halls, but additional resources are needed to equip the new labs for teaching and research.

Shipment Status

Arrived on campus at Karatina in July 2021

Karatina arrival

About Instrumental Access

Instrumental Access empowers scientists in developing countries. It gives them the resources they need to pursue life-changing research and teach the next generation.

To begin, we identify a pipeline of scientific talent. Then we rigorously screen universities and select those with the most potential to advance education and research through Instrumental Access.