Horticulture CRSP launches third Regional Center of Innovation

With the launch of a new center in Kenya, the Horticulture Collaborative Research Support Program has successfully opened three centers worldwide dedicated to serving as hubs for horticulture-related activities in nearby developing countries.

Three people stand smiling holding a framed award in front of a banner that reads "Horticulture CRSP Regional Center of Innovation at KARI"
Elizabeth Mitcham, Stephen Mbithi and Lusike Wasilwa officially launched the Horticulture CRSP Regional Center of Innovation with KARI at the FPEAK Practical Training Center in May.

The Horticulture CRSP Regional Center of Innovation at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute officially opened May 9, at an event with more than 100 guests exploring a technology fair and listening to presentations about horticultural research.

“Don’t look at these technologies and think ‘These are for research, or these are for industry.’ No, these are for you,” Dr. Lusike Wasilwa told the crowd. Wasilwa is the director of the Horticulture CRSP Regional Center of Innovation at KARI as well as KARI’s assistant director for horticulture and industrial crops.

Among the horticultural technologies on display were seed-drying beads, postharvest tools, the CoolBot, pest-exclusion nets, a solar dryer, a banana ripening chamber, vermicompost and garden kits, a plant diagnostic clinic, and others.

The new center is located at KARI’s Practical Training Center with the Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya (FPEAK) in Thika, Kenya. The new center brings together researchers, extension agents, entrepreneurs and business people to improve livelihoods of smallholder farmers and small businesses in the region.

The event also included presentations from Horticulture CRSP researchers. Dr. Steve Weller along with team members from Purdue University, AMPATH and Eldoret University discussed their progress in improving agronomic practices for African indigenous vegetables and the vegetables’ potential for improving nutrition in vulnerable populations.

Dr. Kent Bradford of the University of California, Davis discussed using drying beads with horticultural seed and introduced the concept of a “dry chain” for seed storage.

Three centers build networks, start training

The center at KARI joins two other Regional Center of Innovations—one at Kasetsart University in Thailand and the other at Zamorano in Honduras.

Kenyan volunteer talks with American student around a table showcasing drying beads
Patcharin Taridno of Rhino Research, right, discusses using drying beads for drying and storing seeds — a technology tested by Horticulture CRSP — with participants at the event's technology fair.

Led by a team at UC Davis, Horticulture CRSP has opened the three cooperative centers to further strengthen its international partnerships for fruit and vegetable research that benefit smallholder farmers.

“Now that we have the three centers, the next step is to plan trainings where smallholders—and people who train small-scale farmers—can come to the centers to learn about new horticultural technologies and how to apply the latest research results,” said Britta Hansen, Horticulture CRSP’s Regional Centers of Innovation specialist.

“We believe the centers are an opportunity for development organizations and the horticulture industry to promote their technologies through demonstration and training, in an effort to support entrepreneurship among farmers and small agricultural businesses,” she said.

In a first step toward that goal, the Regional Center of Innovation at Zamorano hosted a short course on postharvest management for small- and medium-sized producers.

The Regional Center of Innovation at Kasetsart University has also exhibited horticultural technologies at the Horti Asia international trade show and at an International Society for Horticultural Science symposium.

Horticulture CRSP and its centers are funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, which administers the U.S. foreign assistance program providing economic and humanitarian assistance in more than 80 countries worldwide.

More photos of the launch event are available on Flickr.

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