Harnessing plant tissue culture technologies for education, research and improved livelihoods in Kenya

October 2023 to September 2025
food insecurity
small-scale farmers
breeding techniques
climate change
disease challenges
disease-resistant banana varieties
plant tissue culture
Kenyatta University (Kenya)
Research fields
Agriculture and Food Sciences

Food security is one of the Big Four Agendas for Kenya's Vision 2030 goals. However, food insecurity remains a major problem in the country, particularly for small-scale farmers. This is mainly due to the low crop productivity of rainfed staple food crops, lately worsened by recurrent droughts and emerging diseases. Climate-smart and disease-resistant varieties of these crops are direly needed, but the lack of infrastructure and human capacity pose a handicap to applying advanced breeding technologies in Africa. Plant tissue culture (TC) is one of the technologies required in modern breeding and also to produce disease-free planting materials to curb the spread of diseases, particularly for vegetatively-propagated crops important for Africa and Kenya, such as banana. However, the application of TC is also constrained by inadequate laboratories and human skills. To address this gap, the proposed project seeks to build capacity in plant TC by working on two aspects: First, we will expand and equip an existing basic TC lab at Kenyatta University (KU) and also train staff to enable adequate (i) hands-on TC practical teaching for undergraduate and postgraduate students, (ii) production of clean planting materials of disease-resistant banana varieties available at KU, and (iii) advanced research in modern breeding techniques to address climate change and disease challenges; Second, we will strengthen the collaboration of KU with farmers, an agribusiness cooperative and local governments in three counties (Embu, Kirinyaga, Muranga) where banana is a priority crop to enhance deployment and sustainable use of disease-free banana plantlets. We will do this through demonstration trials, field days and visits, workshops and stakeholder consultation meetings. Ultimately, the project will improve the technical scientific educational and research capacity and enhance innovations adoption to address food insecurity in the country.