Prof. Robert Wahiti Gituru, an Associate Professor of Plant Biosystematics in the Department of Botany at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), has won the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) prestigious award for International Cooperation.
The award was presented to Prof. Gituru during the CAS Annual Congress in Beijing, China on December 24, 2023.
The award recognizes Prof. Gituru, the African Director at the Sino-Africa Joint Research Centre (SAJOREC) at JKUAT, for his contribution to the development of a new model of China-Africa science and technology cooperation through the SAJOREC initiative.
Prof. Gituru becomes the first African recipient of the award that recognizes and honors individuals from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) who have made significant contributions to international scientific and technological cooperation.
His participation in collaborative research with scientists and institutes connected with the CAS and his training in China also had a significant role in earning the award.
Prof. Gituru helped to establish and successfully run the Sino-Africa Joint Research Centre, one of the first CAS overseas institutions, and China’s first overseas comprehensive science and education institution. This was critical in creating a new paradigm for science and technology cooperation between China and Africa when CAS first started to build bases for science and education abroad.
While receiving the award, Prof. Gituru stated that “the Sino-Africa Joint Research Centre will continue to focus on biodiversity conservation, ecological and environmental protection, as well as the modern agriculture demonstration as well as strengthening the remote sensing platforms.”
Prof. Gituru is working with CAS scientists to discover and compile information on the flora of Kenya. So far, he has found two new plant species in Kenya’s flora and one in China. He has co-authored over 90 publications in peer-reviewed journals and three books.
The Director encourages China’s contribution to African science and education and he has so far recommended over 300 exceptional African youth to study and train in China, therefore fostering the China-Africa collaboration.
After receiving the award, Prof. Gituru noted that he intends to train his focus on the ongoing compilation of the “Flora of Kenya” project which aims to catalogue all the plants in the country, and also focus on collaborative research in biodiversity studies.
“Iam keen to develop the JKUAT botanical garden by upscaling both ex-situ and in-situ conservation of plants including rare and endangered species and popularize it as a destination for recreation and leaning purposes for both the young and the not so young as well as promote the SAJOREC initiative to expand to more countries and institutions in Africa and to bring on board more research institutes and agencies in China,” said Prof. Gituru, an expert in botany, who currently serves as a member of the Kenya National Academy of Sciences, and a long serving member of the East Africa Natural History Society (EANHS).