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Technology centre adding value to underutilized plants boosting Kenyan smallholder farmers’ income

moringa seeds
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Moringa seeds. Photo courtesy.

Sino-Africa Joint Research Center (SAJOREC) at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture Technology (JKUAT) in collaboration with Botanic Diamond, a Kenya-based company run by Chinese is improving small-scale farmers’ income in Kenya by adding value to plants such as moringa, baobab and toothbrush trees into medicinal teas, essential oils, and toothpaste.

This was after SAJOREC with the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) discovered that Kenyan moringa was rich in selenium and had great market potential, due to its health benefits after a farm produce investigation in 2015. They have since gotten involved in boosting moringa production in Kenya.

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The two companies teamed up to provide free seeds and technical advice to the locals. It also bought the moringa after it was harvested. One of the locals, Meshack Mutevu who planted 200 trees was able to make upwards of Sh100,000.

 “Sino-Africa cooperation should not stay in laboratories and academic papers. The fundamental research should be integrated into local situations,” said Wang Qingfeng, director of SAJOREC.

He also said the centre has transformed a number of Kenyan plants, including baobab and toothbrush trees, into medicinal teas, essential oils, and toothpaste, adding that many Kenyan farmers can lift themselves out of poverty by planting these plants.

 “the combination of the CAS’ advantages in technology and private companies’ grasp of the market will benefit more ordinary Kenyan households,” Said Cui Chaojie, chairman of Botanic Diamond.  Part of the results is the development of 15 products out of 11 Kenyan plants.

Also, a doctoral student currently at the CAS Wuhan Botanical Garden is researching soil samples taken back from Kenyan residential compounds, schools and public spaces with state-of-the-art equipment in the laboratory.

On her side, Ambassador of China to Kenya, Ms. Sun BaoHong, speaking during a China Central Television plenary discussion, hosted in JKUAT, Thursday, August 9, 2018, commended the massive development of the bilateral ties. She acknowledged that combined efforts from both China and Kenya were responsible for this.

This is a clear indication of China’s willingness to collaborate with Africa and the very promising success it could bring.

Facilities like the Wuhan Botanical Garden present enormous potential for indigenous technological advancements.

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