NDMA partners with academia for drought risk management research

The NDMA has partnered with local universities for research into areas relating to drought risk management and climate change adaptation. The Authority gave research grants to six PhD students drawn from the University of Nairobi, University of Eldoret and Kenyatta University.

In his opening remarks during a seminar for the presentation of research findings, NDMA Board Chairman Mr Raphael Nzomo noted that the event came at a critical time when the country is looking for practical solutions to challenges posed by droughts.

Droughts erode economic gains and slow progress towards the attainment of development goals and the socio-economic well-being of our communities. We, therefore, have a duty to come up with lasting solutions that are based on empirical evidence, community experiences and trials, Mr Nzomo said.

The Board Chairman underscored the critical role of research in surmounting 21st Century challenges, adding that NDMA was alive to the fact that it can only manage drought risks effectively by implementing decisions that are backed by concrete evidence.

NDMA, with support from the European Union, put aside Ksh 8 million to fund demand-driven research. The initiative was aimed at generating necessary evidence for drought risk management and building the capacity of Kenyans to research issues that support the development of arid and semi-arid areas.

NDMA Chief Executive Officer Mr James Oduor noted that this was the first time the Authority was engaging in demand-driven research. The research process was led by Professor Kinuthia Ngugi from the University of Nairobi Department of Land Resource Management and Agricultural Technology. As lead expert, Professor Kinuthia supported progress monitoring of research deliverables by the PhD students, ensuring they responded to the Authority’s research needs.

NDMA Board Chairman Mr Raphael Nzomo addresses participants during the research seminar.

Funded Research Topics

During the research seminar, six students presented findings of their studies as follows;

  1. Benson Wang’ombe: Design of a vacuum solar water desalination plant along River Athi, Makueni County. The main study objective is to ensure the development of a tool that can be used to design a vacuum solar water desalination plant and maximise its production.
  2. Cecilia Wawira Ireri: Topic: Gully erosion and stabilisation in semi-arid environment of Wanjoga River catchment of Tana River Basin, Embu County. The study seeks to establish factors that influence gully erosion in the semi-arid environment of Wanjoga River catchment of Tana Basin, Embu County.
  3. Dorcas Ndunge Benard: Topic: Effects of super absorbent polymers on irrigation water requirement, efficiency and African leafy vegetables growth in greenhouse: Case study of Kitui County. The study assesses the effect of Super Absorbent Polymers (SAP) on irrigation water needs, frequencies, efficiency and growth of African Leafy Vegetables (ALVs) in a greenhouse with a case study of Kitui County.
  4. Hannah Mugure Kamano: Topic: Efficacy of plasma technology in eliminating fungi and aflatoxins in Maize in Makueni and Baringo Counties, Kenya. The study seeks to determine the efficacy of plasma technology in eliminating fungi and aflatoxins for increased food safety in specified community knowledge, attitude and practice contexts, with the case of Makueni and Baringo counties.
  5. Lutta Alphayo: Topic: Pasture production under different micro-catchments and their economic optimisation in agropastoral areas in Kenya ÔÇô Isiolo and Tana River Counties. The study aims to increase pasture feed and seed production in pastoral areas of Kenya through the use of micro-catchments for water harvesting and economic valuation of rangeland management practices in pastoral systems to inform sustainable rangeland use and management at local and landscape scales in Isiolo and Tana River Counties.
  6. Stephen Kimno: Topic: Breeding dolichos bean (Lablab purpureus (L.). Sweet) using gamma induced mutation for earliness and yield-related traits, West Pokot. The main objective is to improve dolichos production for food and nutritional security in ASAL areas of Kenya by creating desirable allelic variants through mutation breeding and evaluating for earliness and traits associated with yield.

The research seminar was held in Naivasha, with participants comprising the NDMA Board of Directors, research lead expert, research students and their supervisors as well as NDMA management team. Prof Kinuthia noted that research is not a walk in the park.

Research costs money and time, its stressful and its value or utility may not be immediately obvious, he said. He added that no research cycle will solve all problems and having begun the process, NDMA must continue.

In his closing remarks, Mr Nzomo noted that all the research topics presented resonated with the Authority’s work.

Food and nutrition security, for instance, is one the biggest challenges in the ASALs. And it’s not just about adequate food in terms of quantity but also quality, and safety – Mr Raphael Nzomo, MBS.

The Chairman noted that the forum was rich and mutually beneficial to all participating parties.

The researchers have opened our eyes to partnership opportunities with academia and research institutions for the co-creation of innovations and patents, he said.


Emphasis on Contextual Research

Mr Nzomo said the findings provide a good opportunity for incremental research or to cover the areas requiring more research, reiterating that research must be contextualised and tap into existing knowledge of local communities for it to be actionable.

He added that Kenya hungers for more functional research, especially home-grown studies that address local development challenges. He thanked the supervisors, Prof. George Krhoda, Prof. Moses Nyangito, Prof. Miriam Kinyua, Prof. Michael Okoth, Dr. John Paul Obiero and Dr. Walter Njoroge for guiding the students through the research process.

The research grants were supported by the European Union under the EDE: Drought Risk Management and Coordination Support to Pillar 6 (EDE: DRMC-SP6) project. The call for application provided for the award of partial grants of up to a maximum of Ksh 1 million each, limited only to the costs of research.

32 applicants responded to the call for applications, which closed on November 6, 2019, after which 12 were shortlisted. 8 PhD research bursaries were awarded but one applicant later declined the grant, while another passed away before commencing their research, leaving only six grantees.

The six students were each issued with grant contracts initially running until June 2021. The contracts were later extended by two months due to delays in the realisation of field activity timelines occasioned by Covid-19 containment measures, especially restrictions on movement