By Brian Otieno
Moi University has identified apple farming as their go-to activity to raise funds to supplement the exchequer funding.
The university said apart from generating income for the institution, their apple farming will also provide part of a solution to the apple needs of the country.
“A lot of Kenyans might not be aware that we (Kenya) import about 95 per cent of our apple needs in this country,” said Kimani.
Speaking last Friday after a four-day workshop in Mombasa, the Moi University Council chair Prof Humphrey Kimani Njuguna said they will engage in apple farming on 1,000 acres of land.
Kimani said universities have to identify alternative income generation activities to help finance their programs.
“We don’t foresee a situation where the exchequer can finance 100 per cent on the financial needs of our public universities,” said Kimani.
Since 2015, the 35 public universities in Kenya have been undergoing serious financial challenges because of the collapse of the parallel programs.
The parallel programs saw privately sponsored students provide the universities with about 50 per cent of their budgets.
Coupled with the dwindling fortunes of their various income generation activities, the public universities were left with the financing from the exchequer which has also been dwindling and made worse by other extraneous factors like the Covid-19 challenges.
Moi University is pioneering large scale apple farming, growing the Wambugu apple variety.
The university estimates they will be earning about Sh79 million per acre in four years’ time on maturity.
This translates to about Sh80 billion from apple farming upon maturity.
“It might sound like we are out of this world but we have done our due diligence,” said the University Council chair.
Kimani said the university has plans to set up a factory, engage in community empowerment activities by way of out-growers, conduct research into the Wambugu and other apple varieties using the university’s School of Agriculture, activities which are estimated to cost about Sh40 billion.
“This way, we will get our university out of financial ICU,” said Kimani.
Another way of raising funds is revitalizing the varsity’s alumni association.
The council said since the inception of the university in 1984, they have done over 110,000 students, some of who are very highly placed in government, private sector and even foreign missions.
“We will reach out to them and tell them ‘come, let us build our university’,” said Kimani.
Research, a critical component of universities, is an important sector that can earn the university income and Moi University is now looking to revitalise that department.
Harvard University, for example, generates about USD1.4 billion (about Sh154.1 billion) from research alone, Kimani noted.
“No university can grow without research all over the world. We want to continuously engage in research to attract the various grants and funds,” he said.
Cost-saving measures like closing some of the satellite campuses and ensuring prudent use of funds through cost-cutting is another strategy the varsity intend to revitalise.
Already, the university has closed down campuses in Kericho, Nakuru, Kitale, parts of Eldoret and Yala.
Although he denied the existence of ghost workers at Moi University, Kimani said they will stay vigilant to ensure they do not appear.
He said rationalizing the workforce will be necessary.
“We will look at our members of staff so that we are able to downsize where necessary. If we have a bloated workforce it is time to relook at our workforce and do it humanly,” said the council chair.
The aim is to achieve the best practice where 70 per cent of the workforce are teaching staff while 30 per cent are non-teaching staff.
University Education and Research PS Simon Nabukwesi said universities should look for the best ways to mobilize resources from willing partners, friends and their alumni.
“Many of them (Moi University alumni) are technocrats in ministries of government and in private companies and are very successful.
“We reach out to them to think about bringing back to the institution that made them because this is also the practice all round in the whole world,” said Nabukwesi.
He said Moi University seeks to identify itself with the best in the world for the purposes of skills transfer.
“So the aspect of benchmarking, especially in matters engineering and textile industry, becomes key,” said the PS.
He called on well-wishers and interested parties to partner with universities to help them get the requisite financial resources to maintain quality standards of education and research.
“The number of students is ever on the increase while the funding is static. In order for us to have standards that we all desire and wish to have in our nation, we need good funding,” said Nabukwesi.
The PS said parents with students in universities can also help the institutions by paying the ‘little fees’ they are to pay.
“It is very little fees, which is Sh16,000 per year. That is the fees that have been in place since 1990. It has not been increased.
He said some universities have increased fees without consultation.
“This is not going to be allowed,” said PS adding that consultations with stakeholders are ongoing.
Moi University Vice Chancellor Isaac Kosgei said they are optimistic they have taken a path that will lead to academic redemption for the University.
“Moi University is one of the largest universities in terms of student numbers and programs so we play a very key role in getting out manpower for this country,” Kosgei said.
He said they need more support internally and externally to continue in their path.
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