Role of universities in development of improved crop varieties, seed production, dissemination and impacts: case studies of dry, canning, snap and runner beans, pigeonpea and onions.
Mandates of universities in east, central and southern Africa have considerably changed from their traditional teaching and research roles, to greater active involvement in the development agenda of their countries, a phenomenon referred to as the ‘third mission’. This has necessitated a change in national laws to better anchor the third mission. For example in Kenya, a new Universities Act (2012) was enacted, which demands universities to play a more active role in national development over and above their traditional teaching and research roles. Universities hold probably the highest concentrated pools of highly trained manpower in virtually all key disciplines essential for diverse facets of national development but which has hirtherto been underutilized. In agricultural sciences, universities have played pivotal role in the development of improved crop varieties, seed production, dissemination and impact creation in the last two decades. A review of bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L), pigeonpea (Cajanus cajan Millsp), onion (Allium cepa L.) and runner bean (Phaseolus coccineus L) improvement activities in Kenya from 1985 to date showed that University of Nairobi breeders developed and released eight dry bush bean varieties, three pigeonpea varieties including Africa’s first short duration pigeonpea variety NPP 670, four bulb onion varieties, Kenya’s first three climbing bean varieties with high yield potential and market preferred grain types; the first biofortified bean varieties (four bush and three climbing bean types) in Kenya and eastern Africa. The first locally developed snap bean and canning bean varieties in eastern Africa are being validated by the regulatory authority and are expected to be released in 2014/2015. The first locally short-day vegetable and dry grain runner bean lines are in advanced yield tests. Bean germplasm developed at the University of Nairobi was distributed to more than 32 countries in six continents between 2000 and 2013. Dry bean and snap bean lines have been in released in several countries in east, central, southern and west Africa. A wider impact strategy and market led breeding strategy developed by the institution and its partners has been adopted in more than 25 African countries and helped to reach more than 5million households with bean based technologies between 2003 and 2010.
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