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September 24, 2018

State's hiring freeze hurting research - experts

Gideon Ndambuki Assistant Minister for Agriculture shows the new Batian coffee plant after the launch at Ruiru coffee research foundation centre
Gideon Ndambuki Assistant Minister for Agriculture shows the new Batian coffee plant after the launch at Ruiru coffee research foundation centre

Government hiring freeze is hurting research in the country, experts have warned.

Prof Hamadi Boga, principal secretary, State Department of Agriculture Research, confirmed that besides poor funding of the sub sector, there is lack of adequate human capacity.

“To fill the gap, we are fast tracking a number of measures including tapping from the local universities and private organisation on contract basis, as well as increasing the retirement age of our agricultural researchers from 60-65 years,” said Boga.

The PS was speaking yesterday during the opening of the inaugural conference on agriculture research in Kenya held at the World Agroforestry Centre in Nairobi.

Nienke Beintema, program head of the Agricultural Science and Technology Indicators, said capacity of researchers from Kalro is slowly declining.

“This will continue to do so based on the departure and retirement of senior researchers and the hiring freeze,” she said.

In January 2017, the National Treasury cabinet secretary Henry Rotich stopped recruitment of the Public Service to curtail government’s spending.

According to an internal evaluation by the Agricultural Science and Technology Indicators, Kalro would need to increase its agricultural researcher numbers by 40 percent to fulfill its research potential despite hiring of interns on one year contracts.

Currently, there are 1,157 agricultural researchers in Kenya.

Beintema said the large shares of PhD qualified researchers at most agricultural research agencies in Kenya are in their 50s and 60s.

“The situation is particularly serious at Kalro with two thirds of the PhD qualified researchers and about half of the Bachelor of Science and Masters of Science researchers were more than 50 years old as of 2016,” she said.

Dr Miltone Ayieko, director of Tegemeo Institute said that 2018/2019 financial year budget allocation for research and development was only 0.8 percent of the Sh16.4 billion allocated to the agriculture.

“Even the Counties are only doing a only one to two percent of their budget allocation to the sector,” said Ayieko.

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