Excerpt on colonial research systems in Kenya in FAO (2002) Report: "Impact of Foreign Assistance on Institutional Development of National Agricultural Research Systems in Sub-Saharan Africa."


Excerpt from:

Beye, Gora. 2002. Impact of Foreign Assistance on Institutional Development of National Agricultural Research Systems in Sub-Saharan Africa. FAO Research and Technology Paper 10. Rome: Special Program for African Agricultural Research, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. http://www.fao.org/3/Y4349E/y4349e00.htm#Contents.

Find original source here: http://www.fao.org/3/Y4349E/y4349e0b.htm


Kenya up until 1895 was part of the British East Africa; it became a British Protectorate from 1895 to 1920 and was designated as Kenya after 1920. The British considered provision of raw materials for their industries an important colonial issue. To enhance this role improvement of agriculture was necessary. A first step was to establish botanical gardens. In Kenya agriculture development was first initiated as a scheme to settle ex-British soldiers who had participated in the Boer War, 1898-1902. Agricultural research was formalized in 1903 when the Department of the colonial government established the first experimental station at a government farm in Kabete, located near to Nairobi.

Between 1903 and 1924 a team of government scientists was appointed to the Kabete Station (entomologist, a tobacco officer, a coffee planting inspector, a horticulturist, a plant breeder, a mycologist and an agricultural chemist). In 1924 the staff was transferred to a new facility called Scott Agricultural Laboratories (SAL). Veterinary research laboratories were also set up in Kabete in 1908. In these early days of agricultural research, the focus was primarily on the production problems of the European settlers. Later on as crop and animal production grew in economic importance and settlers spread throughout the country, several other agricultural research stations were established: a plant breeding station was established (Njoro, 1927), animal husbandry research stations (Naivasha, 1928 and Mariakana, 1932) and a sisal research station (Thika, 1937). Other relocations of research facilities on the basis of the policy of "research facility where the crops grow well" involved:

  • 1944, a horticultural research station opened in Molo to undertake research on temperate fruits and vegetables. The station was later (1950) developed into a Pyrethrum Research Station; with limited research being continued on these other commodities;

  • 1946, the research facilities in Kbarani (coast): this was later upgraded and relocated in Kikambala as a regional research station in 1960 to undertake research into tree crop improvement: coconuts, cashew nuts, mangoes, citrus, etc.;

  • 1948, a sugar research substation was located in Miwani in the Kano Plains;

  • 1949, coffee research, which had been ongoing in SAL since 1924, was transferred to the Jacaranda and Rukera Estates in Ruiru;

  • 1951, pasture (grassland) research was moved to Kitale and named the Grassland Research Station, Kitale;

  • 1953, cotton research facilities were opened in Kibos, a few kilometres outside Kisumu by the Empire Cotton Growing Corporation;

  • 1955, the maize research part of the wheat programme in Njoro was moved to Kitale.

Kenyan agricultural research concentrated until World War 2, on exportable crops and commodities favoured by European farmers. However, during and soon after the War there was a significant shift in government policy towards agricultural problems in African areas. The new policy objective was to exploit the country's substantial agricultural potential in order to support a market economy and to meet domestic food requirements. This was also spurred on by the outcome of the war and the famine in 1943. The blueprint for the development of the African areas was a ten-year plan (1946-1955) called the African Land Development Plan (ALDEV). This was later substantially recast into the Sywnnerton Plan of 1954 covering the period of five years up to 1959. The Sywnnerton Plan was the first concrete step taken by the Government to direct agricultural research into "non-scheduled areas". In order to tackle some new research problems such as low yields and fertility, a number of new research stations were established in different ecological zones as follows:

  • Embu, to cover Central Province and parts of Eastern Province (1952);

  • Kisii, to cover Kisii, Kericho and Nandi areas (1963);

  • Katumani, to cover the dry areas of Eastern Province (1956);

  • Kakamega, to cover the Western Province (1956).

After independence, it was found that a number of important commodities/research areas had not been adequately provided for, hence efforts were made to establish research stations to cover sugarcane, potato development, range management, seed quality and beef production as follows:

  • National Sugar Research Station, Kibos, 1968;

  • National Seed Inspection Services (NSQRC), 1969;

  • Beef Research Station, 1969;

  • Range Management Research Station, 1971;

  • National Potato Research Station, Tigoni, 1972;

  • Mwea Cotton Research Station, Wanguru, 1972;

  • Garissa Regional Research Station, 1980.

Besides the main research stations a number of substations were built in various locations in the country to augment activities of some of the main stations.

At the same time the Government of the United Kingdom decided to create regional agricultural research organizations in East Africa that complemented or partially replaced existing research institutes. The Government mainly financed these. The territorial research institutions, were on the other hand, funded locally. In addition, the East African Agricultural and Forestry Research Council was created in 1947 with a mandate to monitor all research carried out by the territorial and inter-territorial institutes of Kenya, Tanganyika, Uganda and Zanzibar.

The council had its headquarters in Nairobi. It was within this framework that the Amani Agricultural Research Institute was transferred from the Usambara Mountains base (Tanganyika), to Muguga as the East African Agricultural and Forestry Research Organization (EAAFRO). At the same time, the valuable collection of identified plant specimen was moved to the new East African Herbarium that is attached to the National Museum of Nairobi. The Central Veterinary Research Institute established in 1959 in Kabete, evolved to the East African Veterinary Research Organization (EAVRO) based in Muguga.

A significant expansion of the Department of Agriculture's network of research stations took place between 1945 and up to the year of independence in 1963. Experiment stations were established in neglected areas of the country in which African farmers predominated. For the first time, the problems of local farmers were given some serious attention by the country's research agencies.

A series of regionally mandated institutes that were primarily directed and funded by metropolitan government, came into existence (see list above). They continued with little change until the collapse of the East African Community in 1977 after which they were taken over temporarily by various ministries.

With independence in 1963, all the national agricultural research agencies were transferred, with few disruptions, to the newly independent government. During the first 10 to 15 years after independence there were few changes in the organizational set up of the agricultural research system other than some expansion of the network of experiment stations as described above. Most of the national agricultural research was conducted by the Department of Agriculture, under the Scientific Research Division created in 1974, and the Veterinary Services Department of the Ministry of Agriculture.

Research on coffee and tea was conducted, as previously since 1949, by the Coffee Research Foundation (CRF) and the Tea Research Institute of East Africa (now the Tea Research Foundation), both funded through taxes and cess on these products collected by the respective commodity boards.

At the time of independence, there were no academic institutions in agricultural sciences operating in Kenya. Diploma-level training in Kenya was offered in Egerton Agricultural College, which was established in 1939 and initially for Europeans only. After independence the Government engaged on a forceful programme of building academic institutions. The University College of Nairobi, in 1962, upgraded to university status and named, University of Nairobi in 1970. In 1981 the Jomo Kenyatta College of Agriculture and Technology was established and became a constituent College of the Kenyatta University, in 1988; in 1984, the Moi University was established with a Faculty of Forest Resources and Wildlife Management, an Agricultural Mechanization and Rural Engineering Faculty was due to be established in 1994.

Kenya took during the 1970s and 1980s important decisions to streamline NARS with several acts of Parliament. In 1968, the Government commissioned an Agricultural Research Survey Team to review the research activities in the Ministry of Agriculture. The team noted many deficiencies and made wide-range recommendations. Among them one was implemented e.g. the establishment of an Agricultural Research Advisory Council. Unfortunately, apart from its inaugural meeting in 1969, it never became operational.

Upon the collapse of the East African Community, in 1977, the Government took the Science and Technology Act of 1977, to provide a new framework for research institutions. Under this Act, the National Council for Science and Technology (NCST) was established to advise the Government on all aspects of science and technology. The council advised the Government to reorganize agricultural research into a number of semi-autonomous parastatal institutes.

An Amended Science and Technology Act, of 1979, made provision for the establishment of the above-mentioned institutes. The same act provided for the establishment of Advisory Research Committees (ARCs), in each of the major areas of science, directly under the NCST, the highest policy-making body in the country for science and technology. The ARCs are the institutional organs, which link the technical ministries and the research agencies. The ARCs serve also, primarily as forums for the establishment of research programmes and budget allocations and evaluation. Among these ARCs, is the Agricultural Sciences Advisory Research Committee.

Under the provision of the above-mentioned Act the following institutes were created in 1980:

  • Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), combining formerly EAAFRO and EAVRO in one institute and later in 1986 the research stations under the Scientific Research Division of the Ministry of Agriculture was added to form the current KARI;

  • Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI), in 1985, formerly part of EAAFRO;

  • Kenya Trypanosomiasis Research Institute (KETRI), formerly based in Tororo, in Uganda;

  • Kenya Marine and Freshwater Fisheries Institute (KEMFRI), formerly part of EAMFRO based in Zanzibar;

  • Kenya Industrial Development Research Institute (KIRDI), formerly part of EAIRO.

Besides these public research institutions, other components of NARS are: (i) the two research foundations mentioned previously (coffee and tea); (ii) the faculties of agriculture of the universities listed above; (iii) various development agencies and regional development authorities, that have small research branches; and (iv) some private companies."


Creative Commons Licence


Contributed date

August 23, 2021 - 3:52pm

Critical Commentary

I encountered this 2002 FAO report online as I was trying to find out more about the Scott Agricultural Laboratories which the British colonial government apparently established in 1903 in Kenya according to the Kenya National Commission for Science, Technology and Innovation (NACOSTI) which mentioned it in its "History about NACOSTI" webpage.

The report spans multiple countries in SSA but I thought it helpful to draw out the Kenya details as part of understanding a geneaolgy of extroverted science  (Hountondji 2007) and its research infrastructures in the country.


Beye, Gora. 2002. Impact of Foreign Assistance on Institutional Development of National Agricultural Research Systems in Sub-Saharan Africa. FAO Research and Technology Paper 10. Rome: Special Program for African Agricultural Research, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. http://www.fao.org/3/Y4349E/y4349e0b.htm.

Cite as

Gora Beye and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, "Excerpt on colonial research systems in Kenya in FAO (2002) Report: "Impact of Foreign Assistance on Institutional Development of National Agricultural Research Systems in Sub-Saharan Africa."", contributed by Angela Okune, Research Data Share, Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography, last modified 23 August 2021, accessed 23 June 2024. https://www.researchdatashare.org/content/excerpt-colonial-research-systems-kenya-fao-2002-report-impact-foreign-assistance