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[NAIROBI] Kenya is to spend nearly 3.4 billion shillings (US$43.6 million) in an effort to ensure that farmers in the country benefit from agricultural research and can access and use advanced agricultural technologies.

Details of the initiative, being funded by the World Bank through its Kenya Agricultural Productivity Project (KAPP), were announced by Kenya's agriculture minister Kipruto Kirwa at a meeting on agricultural research held in Nairobi last month (24-27 January).

Some of the funds will be used to recruit and train more researchers and agricultural extension officers, whose role is to let farmers know about relevant research.

This, said Kirwa, was necessary because weak links between scientists and farmers were partly to blame for low agricultural production in Kenya and the rest of Africa.

"It is imperative that research findings reach farmers if we are to effectively confront low crop yields," Kirwa told SciDev.Net. "We will not be able to achieve food security if we do not invest in agricultural research and technological development."

Stressing that African farmers are increasingly well-informed and interested in higher-yielding crop varieties, Kirwa called on donor organisations, African governments and the private sector to increase their support of agricultural research.

He added that Kenya would double the amount of money it allocates to research — currently just 0.5 per cent of its gross domestic product.

According to Samuel Muigai, assistant director of the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute and one of KAPP's coordinators, the World Bank money will be invested over the next three years, with pilot projects beginning in 20 districts.

Muigai says KAPP would transform a previously disjointed development effort into a coordinated system with more efficient resource allocation and improved outcomes.

Seventy per cent of the World Bank funding for KAPP is in the form of a loan, while the rest is a grant.