UPOV Convention at Work

UPOV Convention at Work: Benefits to the Kenyan Agricultural/Horticultural Sectors

Kenya has a total land surface of 58 million hectares with approximately 7 million hectares under agricultural production. The agriculture sector contributes 26% to the gross national product of Kenya, but over 60% of all export revenues come from agriculture. This indicates how important agriculture is to the Kenyan economy. The Kenyan population is continuing to increase. In 1970 the population of Kenya was 20 million, but today it has increased to 42 million today. Essentially, the population has doubled in a time frame of 40 years. As a consequence, food productivity will need to increase and the diversity of plant varieties and species under cultivation will also need to increase. Kenya is not without its challenges in the agriculture and horticulture sectors. Often weather patterns can be unpredictable, which can lead to crop failures. As such, Kenya will require continued access to innovative new plant varieties and improved production techniques to mitigate crop losses. 

In 2005 the UPOV Office published a report on the impact of Plant Variety Protection (PVP) in various countries, including Kenya. The study found that in a seven year period (1997 to 2004) after introduction of PVP system in Kenya, several positive impacts were observed. A significantly higher number of varieties were developed and released into the Kenyan marketplace in the six-year period after the introduction of PVP (1997-2003), when compared to the previous six-year period (1990-1996). In addition, a dramatic increase was observed in the introduction of foreign varieties, especially in the horticultural sector. This resulted in a diversification of the horticultural sector and the emergence of a flower industry. Kenya has now become a significant competitor in the global cut flower industry and a major exporter of horticulture crops, specifically vegetables. A UPOV based PVP law also facilitated an increase in the number of domestically bred agriculture varieties with improved characteristics (e.g. yield, pest and disease resistance, abiotic stress tolerance, improved nutritional qualities, and early maturity).  

The development of these improvements benefited not only commercial agricultural production, but also subsistence farmers. Introduction of a UPOV based PVP law facilitated public-private plant breeding partnerships, including collaborative relationships between international research institutes (i.e. CGIAR Centers) and Kenyan based seed companies. Another benefit observed was the emergence of new breeding entities such as university researchers and private farmer-breeders. At present, the horticulture sector employs 2 million people directly, and indirectly another 3.5 million in associated activities which support the sector. Improving the intellectual property environment has also increased investment by the private sector in breeding new plant varieties, and encouraged collaborative relationships between private-public breeders. Within the last 20 years, the number of seed companies in Kenya has dramatically increased from 13 to 83, with the majority being in the private sector. It is evident that the introduction of a UPOV based PVP law had a positive effect on the agricultural and horticultural sectors, increasing investment and access to new plant varieties, resulting in benefits to Kenyan farmers and producers and the Kenyan economy.