Instrumental Access 2019:
Department of Biological Sciences
In Kenya, expanding research and teaching to include molecular biology and biotechnology
Meet our Awardee
Established in 2016, Rongo University is a newly-chartered public university in Kenya.
The campus had been a center for vocational and technical training for Diploma and Certificate programs since the 1980s. It was elevated as a constituent college of Moi University in 2012 and to university status in 2016.
Rongo University is located in the southwestern corner of Kenya, near Lake Victoria and the Tanzanian border. The economy of the surrounding area is heavily dependent on agriculture, fishing, and smaller-scale gold mining.
The Department of Biological Sciences is part of the School of Science, Technology and Engineering. It offers bachelor’s level programs in biochemistry, zoology, microbiology, and botany, while also teaching students from the School of Education. Graduate programs are currently under development.
The department's research priorities include: plant disease resistance, plant and animal ecology, basic and applied entomology, disease epidemiology, agronomy, plant genetics, phytochemistry and natural products, and public and community health.
Equipment donation will enhance capacity to attract research grants and ability to engage in quality teaching and research, improve our collaborations with other institutions, and positively impact our community outreach programs, especially to the local farming communities."
Weaving a New Fabric for Rural Communities:
Dr. Edward Anino
How can rural communities in southwestern Kenya move from poverty to prosperity?
Edward Anino, PhD, senior lecturer and Dean of the School of Graduate Studies at Rongo University, believes that an iconic textile combined with science-led innovations may be the key to eliminating poverty.
Dr. Anino and collaborator Zachariah Ngalo Otieno-Ayayo, PhD, an associate professor of biological sciences at Rongo University, see potential for their region to re-invent itself as a hub for the manufacture and export of fine silks and other textiles.
In theory, silk manufacturing is particularly well-suited to be an engine for economic growth that benefits the entire region.
Silkworms can be reared on a small scale by individual farmers, with relatively low barriers to entry. Rural families could potentially add value before the silk cocoons are sold by learning to spin them into thread or even weave their own cloth. Development of larger-scale textile manufacturing operations would also add much-needed jobs to the region’s economy, while simultaneously creating new opportunities for farmers.
For many in the region, the opportunity to engage in such a profitable undertaking would be life-altering.
"The overall aim of the project is to develop and transfer silk worm rearing and silk making technologies to the end users, and to develop cottage industries and other agribusiness opportunities, thereby eradicating poverty in the region" says Dr. Anino.
Before that can happen, however, research is needed to adapt agricultural and industrial practices developed in Asia over the past 4,500 years for use in Kenya.
For example, Dr. Anino and his students are currently exploring which breeds of silk worms and which varieties of mulberry, the worms’ only source of nourishment, will be most productive under local conditions.
They are also investigating how best to control pests and diseases that could inhibit the production of high quality fabric.
With new equipment from Instrumental Access, they hope to expand this work to include protein profile analyses for improvement of silk quality.
This work could lead to the development of transgenic mulberry varieties that result in higher quality silks.
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About Instrumental Access
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.