Eradicating famine in Africa gets boost through new research

Leicester researchers are part of an international team spearheading a Newton-Utafiti Fund project delivered by the British Council to restore food security to millions of vulnerable households in Kenya following natural disasters.

The project has identified a number of ways to reduce the deterioration of ecosystems in Kenya through our expertise in Earth Observation science in collaboration with the University of Nairobi. This includes adaption strategies such as replacing maize with sweet potato in regions where maize production is becoming insecure and using satellite imagery to identify pests and diseases and find ways to predict the best locations to grow tea, one of Kenya’s major exports.

The team in Kenya
The developments were discussed at a bilateral Food Security Workshop in Nairobi where 40 scientists from UK and Kenya higher educational institutions, research institutes, government and civil society organisations met, discussed and resolved to work together to strengthen Kenya’s food security systems to enhance robustness and resilience to natural disasters.

The workshop aimed at strengthening research capacity through supporting the career development of the early-career researchers, build a network and identify research priorities for food security in Kenya.

 “Kenya is greatly concerned about projected changes in climate over East Africa and its possible impacts on agriculture and livestock production through increased intensity and frequency of droughts and flash flooding. Opportunities created by climate change and rainwater capture in rural communities include livelihood diversification," says Heiko Balzter, Professor of Physical Geography and Director of the Centre for Landscape and Climate Research. “Food insecurity persists particularly in arid and semi-arid regions of Kenya, but soil and water conservation in the highlands are also still inefficient and ecosystem degradation is occurring. Stronger knowledge and skills dissemination from research into policy are urgently needed.”

To translate workshop outcomes to research and development action, three Research Working Groups and a Research Network were formed.