Drs E Monyo and P Kimurto (left) at one of the Egerton University’s breeder seed production plots. Photo: ICRISAT

Drs E Monyo and P Kimurto (left) at one of the Egerton University’s breeder seed production plots. Photo: ICRISAT

A recent visit by an ICRISAT team to partners and farmers’ fields in Kenya showed good results particularly in the adoption of improved varieties of chickpea by farmers under the Tropical Legumes II (TL II) Project.

Dr Emmanuel Monyo, ICRISAT Principal Scientist and TL II Project Coordinator, and Mr Ibrahim Shiundu, Research Technician, visited Egerton University and met with its Principal Investigator, Dr Paul Kimurto, to monitor TL II activities being undertaken by the university which included development of new chickpea varieties, maintenance of breeding pipelines, and dissemination of improved varieties to farmers.

In the past five years, six varieties of chickpea were released as a result of the collaboration between ICRISAT and Egerton University.  Some of these varieties have already found their way into the farmers’ fields across the country. The team visited and interacted with some of the farmers who have significantly benefited from their involvement in TL II.

Ms Nancy Njogu has been cultivating two chickpea varieties (ICCV 97105 and ICCV 95423) in her 1 ha land for seed production under contract with the university. She is one among the 55 smallholder farmers across Njoro (15), Bomet – Rongai (20) and Eastern Kenya (20) producing chickpea seed under contract and linked to the university.

In the highland region where she lives, chickpea is planted as an off season crop in October after the main season crop of wheat, maize or Irish potatoes are harvested. This timing avoids high incidences of Ascochyta blight while offering an alternative crop in an otherwise fallow season.

“Chickpea is a low input crop, matures faster producing high yields and fetches good prices on the market. I thank ICRISAT and the Egerton University for introducing me to the crop,” she told the ICRISAT team during their visit to her farm on 7 February.

Dr Kimurto told the team that there has been an increased demand for chickpea seed from local farmers. “We have undertaken breeder seed production in 6 ha of university farms to regularly supply seed producers,” he said. He added that keeping in mind the great potential to increase production of chickpea in the region, the requirements of farmers including quality seed, value addition of the produce, and linkage to markets, need to be met.

A tour of the University Agronomy and Agro Science Based Park farm helped the team understand how  TL I and TL II supported facilities such as laboratories, field stores and rainout shelter are helping the university support students to conduct research – much of which is linked to the project. They also met with Professor Alfred Kibor, Director of Research at the university who hoped for even greater collaboration between the two institutions.

Ms Nancy Njogu showing off her chickpea seed production plot. Photo ICRISAT

Ms Nancy Njogu showing off her chickpea seed production plot. Photo ICRISAT

The team likewise visited the Faida Seed Company, a strong Egerton University collaborating partner in production, processing and marketing of seed products. The company’s operations manager, Mr George Njihia promised to strengthen his legumes seed section to make available high quality affordable seed of chickpea to smallholder farmers in Kenya.

The TL II project which is part of the CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is a joint initiative of three international agricultural research centers: ICRISAT (chickpea, groundnut and pigeonpea), International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (cowpea and soybean), and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (common bean).

Adapted from ICRISAT Happenings