Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology (JOOUST) in partnership with Siaya County have signed an MoU to set up a constituent college named after former US president Barack Obama.
Governor Cornel Rasanga on Thursday said the institution will focus on research on agriculture and fisheries development as well as promote extension services for local farmers.
But as he spoke there were fears that such a college could kill Siaya Agriculture Training Centre which was set up to do the same job. Mr Rasanga said the new institution will in fact strengthen the centre.
"Apart from increased economic activities to serve the expected high number of students, various employment opportunities for locals will accrue from establishment of the university college," said Mr Rasanga.
The college, to be set up at Nyangoma in K’Ogelo, may take some time to take off as both sides said they will seek investors to raise funds for the project. Mr Rasanga said the county government will provide land while JOOUST will offer expertise on running the institution.
He said they were in partnership talks with the Florida Agricultural Mechanical University, based in the US, to offer a student exchange programme. "The proposed partnership is geared towards supporting a learning exchange programme that will see identified students study in Kenya for two years and in the US for another two years as part of a four-year programme," he said.
The college is meant to be a source of research on cropping, yields, soils and livestock keeping which will help Siaya County advance its food security programme.
“Another partnership has already been initiated with Prairie View Agricultural and Mechanical University in the US which has a programme on food production similar to the one we will initiate at the college,” said Mr Rasanga.
He urged the local branch of the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry to pool investments to spur economic growth in the county.
Mr Rasanga said institutions of higher learning had led to the emergence and growth of urban centres such as Bondo, Kakamega and Kisii towns.
“They have largely developed due to the establishment of universities in these towns and as a result of the increased population associated with academic tourism,” he said.
The college will need relevant approvals from the government.
JOOUST Vice Chancellor Stephen Agong’ said the institution will invite the Commission for University Education to conduct an audit and provide approvals for the launch of more academic programmes.
Prof Agong’ said the university will concentrate on agriculture and business-related causes at the initial stages before venturing into the other physical, social and biological sciences.