Signing the contract for the pollinator project in Kenya (l-r): Dr. Patrick N. Muthoka, Botany Department Head, NMK; Prof. Mary Gikungu, National Repository and Research Director, NMK; Dr Juliana Jaramillo, Global Scientist at Bayer Bee Care and coordinator of the project; Dr. Mzalendo Kibunjia, Director General, NMK and Dr. Esther Kioko, Zoology Department Head & Project PI.
Agriculture plays a key role in the Kenyan economy with horticulture (including mainly vegetables, fruits, flowers and nut crops), contributing some 38 percent to the country’s exports.
Yet improving the awareness of the importance of pollination and pollinator-friendly crop protection practices may further improve agricultural practices and production in Kenya.
To enhance local smallholder farming output, Bayer has just signed a two-year contract for a collaborative study to gain fundamental information about pollinators and their involvement in pollination of cultivated indigenous and non-native vegetables in two dryland counties of Eastern Kenya. Many agricultural crops benefit from a diverse pollinator community to ensure optimal pollination and thereby increase yield. However, little is known so far about the diversity of pollinators, their habitats, and pollinator-plant interactions in Kenya. This lack of information and knowledge can affect the decision-making process for preservation and protection of these pollinators.
Through participation in this study, Bayer hopes to provide the small-scale farmers with a better understanding of vegetable cultivation, especially regarding pollination and interactions with pest management practices to improve their understanding of the role pollinators play in providing nutrition and food security.
“Our objective is to better understand and manage the diversity of bees and other pollinators, which may increase vegetable yields and quality for farmers in Eastern Kenya,” says Dr Juliana Jaramillo, Global Scientist at Bayer Bee Care and coordinator of the study.
In Eastern Kenya, crops such as vegetables are mainly grown by women on smallholder farms.
Dr Jaramillo’s research partners are Women Groups in Machakos and Makueni (Kenya), the National Museums of Kenya (NMK), GIS Specialists, the County Governments of Machakos and Makueni, the Kenyan Forest Service and local universities. “The majority of the indigenous vegetables are produced by female smallholder farmers. That’s why it is important to work with Women’s groups: to build a trustful working relationship with the people who are directly affected by our work,” explains Dr Jaramillo.
“This project is timely!” says the NMK, “The smallholder women farmers who play a very critical role in food production for their families have often not received the information they need to flourish. They are desperately in need of relevant research support, technical advice, appropriate knowledge and technology. With this project they will be able to evaluate their farming practices and improve the availability of forage for pollinators, necessary for improved crop yield in terms of quality and quantity.”
The project, which began this month, starts with a survey and will be followed by fieldwork. Staff from the National Museum will work closely with MSc. students from two Kenyan universities and community members. Experts from the Bayer Bee Care Center will be actively involved as well, monitoring and evaluating progress.
The study is expected to provide useful information to those closest to the resources: the female farmers. They will have a better appreciation of the different crop pollinators and the role these play in helping to produce better quality and more abundant vegetables. Indirectly, this will play an important role in ecosystem conservation and food security in these dryland counties of Kenya.
Find out more about the National Museums of Kenya.
What else are we doing for pollinator protection in Africa?
Find out more about the special relationship between pollinators and fruits.