This was a partnership project by Kenyatta University, South Eastern University College, and the Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute (KIRDI). The project dubbed “optimizing pumpkin production and value-addition for food security and climate change mitigation in Kenya,” was funded by the National Council for Science and Technology (NCST).
The importance of pumpkin as a major food crop in Kenya is increasingly being recognized mainly due to increased knowledge about its nutritional value and its ease of cultivation in several agro-ecological zones. Pumpkin was traditionally considered a “poor man’s food”, but it is now a highly priced commodity in urban areas. It is particularly an important crop in most semi-arid areas of Kenya providing food when other crops are unable to thrive. In the face of the changing climatic conditions, pumpkin production is therefore being promoted due to its ability to adapt to increasingly stressful growth environment and changing climatic conditions.
Despite these positive attributes of pumpkin and the growing commercial interest, its yield is still very low in Kenya. This is mainly due to lack of quality varieties, poor crop management and threats of pests and diseases. Thus the overall objective of the project was to enhance food security through improved production and value addition. This was in response to the effects of climate change in Kenya.
The Center conducted a baseline and market survey to establish pumpkin varieties grown and the socio-cultural and economic issues related to pumpkin production, market opportunities, product price, competitors, distribution, and seasonal effects. Farmer/trader preferred qualities (size, color, growth habit, yield, cooking quality, fruit cost and availability) were also be assessed. The Center took the lead in the dissemination of research results to farmers through participatory approaches.