Dr. Alice Karuri – Nurturing Sustainable Farming for a Brighter Future


Meet Dr. Alice Karuri, a passionate researcher, and dedicated lecturer at Strathmore University, where she imparts knowledge in Development Studies. But she’s not just your ordinary academic; Alice is on a mission to change the world, one sustainable agricultural chain at a time.

Alice is currently leading a groundbreaking research project in collaboration with the University of Oxford.The project is aimed at reducing the environmental impact of farming in Kenya’s Uasin Gishu region. You might be wondering, what’s so exciting about farming research? Well, Alice’s work is at the forefront of a vital global movement towards sustainable agriculture. It’s a journey to transform the way we produce food, protect the environment, and support the livelihoods of small-scale farmers.

The overarching concept here is “sustainable agricultural systems,” a term that summarizes environmental responsibility, and social equity. Alice recognizes that for farming to thrive, it must not only be profitable for farmers but also eco-friendly and inclusive. It’s about ensuring that farmers have the tools and opportunities they need to succeed.

The urgency of this research is underscored by the pressing issues farmers face today. Climate change is wreaking problems on the agricultural sector, introducing new pests and diseases, depleting soil nutrients, and causing an array of challenges. With approximately 1.5 million hectares dedicated to maize production in Kenya, the nation is still a net importer of maize, highlighting the need to boost  production while mitigating environmental harm.

This is where Alice and her team come in. They’re using innovative technology, such as the Harmonized Environmental Storage and Tracking of the Impacts of Agriculture (HESTIA) platform, to gather crucial data. This data covers everything; from pesticide, fertilizer usage, to machinery and water harvesting practices. Once collected, the platform processes the numbers to calculate the environmental impact of farming, including emissions and nitrification. The best part? HESTIA is an open-access platform, allowing anyone to upload or access verified and validated data. Consumers can now peek behind the curtain to see the environmental footprint of their food.

Alice’s work aligns with the global trend of prioritizing sustainability in agriculture. With half of the world’s land used for farming, and agriculture outstanding industries as the leading source of greenhouse gasses, it’s clear that change is overdue. Developed nations are emphasizing environmental considerations, but for developing countries like Kenya, the primary focus is often on productivity and food security. It’s a delicate balance, and Alice firmly believes that sustainable production can be achieved, even in the face of these demands.

The world is shifting towards evidence-based research, emphasizing the importance of rigorous methodologies and impact assessment. It’s time-consuming and resource-intensive, but it’s the future. In the process, Alice acknowledges the challenges and complexities of conducting research, especially in academia, where juggling teaching, research, and community service can be overwhelming. Yet, she applauds Strathmore University for providing critical support, from ethics to finances and legal guidance on her research journey.

Alice also sees a future where technology plays a pivotal role in farming, but the challenge lies in making it accessible and user-friendly for older, less-educated farmers. It’s a noble endeavor, one that can bridge the generational and knowledge gaps in agriculture.

So, what does Alice envision for the future of research at Strathmore University? 

She foresees more on-the-ground engagement with farmers, reducing the intermediaries between funders and the end beneficiaries. This would create a more direct and impactful connection. Her  dream is to integrate teaching with research, allowing students to experience the real-world implications of their studies.

For aspiring researchers, Alice shares some valuable advice. First and foremost, research what you’re genuinely passionate about. The journey can be challenging, but a profound “why” will keep you going, ensuring that your work has a higher purpose. Discipline is key, as consistency and dedication are vital. Passion and discipline, when combined, can lead to remarkable outcomes in the world of academia and research.

Alice Karuri’s story is a testament to the power of research and education to effect positive change. As we stand on the cusp of a more sustainable agricultural future, Alice is leading the charge, showing that passion, discipline, and a commitment to a greater purpose can pave the way for a brighter and greener world.

Article Written by Teresa Nekesa

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