A royal visit

His Royal Highness Crown Prince Haakon Magnus of Norway visited the International Livestock Research Institute’s Kapiti Research Station and Wildlife Conservancy on 24 November 2022 as part of a recent state visit to Kenya. He was accompanied by Norwegian Ambassador to Kenya, H.E Gunnar Andreas Holm, Minister of International Development, Ms. Anne Beathe Tvinnereim, State Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, Ms. Wenche Westberg, and State Secretary at the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Ms. Anne Marit Bjørnflaten. Greeting them at Kapiti were ILRI Director General Jimmy Smith and Harry Kimtai, Principal Secretary State Department for Livestock, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Irrigation in Kenya. Numerous other dignitaries from both parties accompanied the visit. 

Located about sixty kilometres southeast of Nairobi, on 13,000 hectares of semi-arid rangeland in Machakos County, Kapiti provides scientists from around the world with a conducive environment to conduct research on issues ranging from animal health, genetics and breeding, forage production, climate change and wildlife management.

Kapiti is also deeply rooted in the local community and provides a variety of services from demonstration programs to education projects for students from primary school to post-graduate and has plans to further expand these services.

The Crown Prince was impressed by his visit. “ILRI is a prime example of a world-class research organization devoted to increasing productivity and yields of animal protein but in a more sustainable way’, he said. 

The Crown Prince emphasized that the problems we face and their solutions are related: ‘What I have learned is that it’s all interconnected and that when we struggle with climate change, for example, what happens in one part of the world affects what happens in another part of the world. We need to help each other find solutions because we are all in this together as a global community.’ Sometimes, he added, those solutions are surprisingly simple.  ‘What we need is to do it a little bit smarter, a little bit better way. For instance, we've been talking to the Minister of Environment and Forests in Kenya, she has a plan of planting trees.’

Director General Jimmy Smith outlined the challenges ahead, as seen by ILRI: ‘By the time the world population stabilizes, we will need 60 per cent more food than what we produce now. So the question is how do we produce that food in a way that is environmentally sustainable, economically viable, and socially sustainable as well? Our role in this is to make the livestock sector respond to those three challenges.’ 

Smith emphasized, however, that it is not just a question of staving off negatives by providing for nutritional security and environmental sustainability. ‘There are also opportunities for commerce, input-output markets and trade, so there's plenty of opportunity to work with Norwegian business to make this happen’, he said.

Minister Tvinnereim reflected that Norway didn’t necessarily make for an obvious choice of partner for Kenyan agriculture. ‘Sometimes in conversations back home, people say Norway is a very cold country and we don’t know anything about agriculture in the tropics. But there are some common denominators. One thing is technology and the other is organization and the most important thing is that we need all hands-on deck.’ 

‘I’ve come straight from COP27, she said, ‘where food systems are becoming more and more a part of the climate negotiations, so technology, the private sector and research are integral.’ She pointed out that small-scale producers in Africa produce about 80 per cent of the food for the continent and at the same time are often food insecure themselves. 

Secretary Kimtai built on the minister’s remarks. ‘I think from the Kenyan perspective, the government is investing in developing policies for climate-smart agriculture and building resilience for our smallholder farmers, so that they are able to adopt the new technology’, he said. The challenge, he said, is not only to develop the technology but to pass it on to smallholder farmers. ‘We must develop policies and capacity-building and creating awareness’, he said, so that ‘companies that mass-produce products find a market among smallholder farmers.’  

‘The research center that we are at here is a powerhouse’, said the Crown Prince at the conclusion of his visit. ‘I do think we are learning from each other. For example, at ILRI, so much research is being done by so many competent people with new technologies for this region. A lot of good can come out of this conversation’, he said.


Photo: His Royal Highness Crown Prince Haakon Magnus of Norway on right. ILRI Director General Jimmy Smith in center, and Harry Kimtai, Principal Secretary State Department for Livestock, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Irrigation to his right. Photo credit: David Njogu/ILRI