Instrumental Access 2019:
Department of Agricultural Sciences
In Kenya, equipping a new laboratory building for research and teaching in agricultural sciences
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.
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."
Safeguarding Kenya's Maize Supply: Dr. Grace Kamotho
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.
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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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.