Instrumental Access 2019:
University of Eldoret
Department of Biotechnology
In Kenya, expanding lab facilities for biotechnology and molecular biology-based agricultural research
Meet our Awardee
The University of Eldoret is located in the “grain basket” of western Kenya, which produces nearly 80% of the country’s maize and wheat.
Fittingly, the university is focused on science, agriculture, and technology. Originally a farmer’s training center and then a teaching college, the University received its charter in 2013.
The School of Agriculture and Biotechnology offers degree programs designed to satisfy the growing market demand in agriculture. Within the School, the Department of Biotechnology offers courses in plant breeding and biotechnology and is the only department in the region with a biotechnology lab.
Research priorities include: protecting staple crops from diseases; germplasm characterization of orphan crops; development of tissue culture protocols to improve micro propagation of recalcitrant seed crops; and mutation breeding approaches.
The equipment will enable us to have increased access to quality education, training, and research, and to contribute to the achievement of Kenya’s Big 4 Agenda."
Engineering a More Resilient Food Supply: Dr. Emmy Chepkoech
After maize, potatoes are Kenya’s most important staple crop. But three-quarters of all potato farms in Kenya are affected by bacterial wilt, a scourge that can wipe out entire crops.
The responsible bacteria can survive in soil for long periods of time, making it difficult to combat and eliminate. Developing a potato that is resistant to bacterial wilt would be a major step towards improving food security in Kenya.
Emmy Chepkoech, PhD, an assistant lecturer at University of Eldoret, is focused on doing just that.
"Breeding for resistant varieties can play an important role in managing the disease," Dr. Chepkoech says. "However, improvement of potato through conventional breeding has been difficult due to the complex genetic inheritance patterns of the crop."
She is currently field screening for bacterial wilt resistance in potato crops and looking for genetic markers that could be responsible.
Dr. Chepkoech also hopes to screen for drought tolerance to address the effects of climate change.
Equipment from Instrumental Access will allow Dr. Chepkoech and colleagues in the Department of Biotechnology to widen their application of modern molecular biology techniques to improve agricultural outcomes.
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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.