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About us

The Kirkhouse Trust (KT) is a small charity registered in Scotland. It was founded in 2000 by Professor Sir Ed Southern and has been endowed by gift aid donations from Oxford Gene Technology Ltd, a company based in Oxford, UK also founded by Sir Ed Southern. The charity's administrative office is in Long Hanborough, North Oxfordshire, UK.


The charity aspires to improve the food security and livelihood of the rural poor in sub-Saharan Africa and India.


We work with local breeders to develop improved legume crops using conventional breeding, enhanced by modern molecular techniques. Within the breeding programmes, we establish laboratories and train scientists to enable them to use molecular markers in their breeding work. The charity's ultimate objectives are:

  1. To support the production of new varieties of locally important legume crops which mitigate losses from various constraints. For example, resistance to the parasitic weed Striga gesneroides has been successfully introduced into several varieties of cowpea which are being distributed to farmers in Burkina Faso, Mali, Ghana and Nigeria.

  2. To strengthen and promote research skills in areas of the world where local support for science is under-funded.


The way the charity works:


  • Awards research grants: Invites scientists with plant breeding expertise in legumes to submit applications for research programmes using marker-assisted selection to introduce traits which are considered important by local farmers & communities.

  • Supports the development of molecular markers.

  • Provides & maintains equipment & consumables: Ships standardised molecular biology and pathology kits to create functioning well-equipped labs in Africa and India.

  • Funds annual meetings: Engages closely with scientists in East and West Africa through Annual Consortia meetings - focused on cowpea in West Africa and common bean in East Africa.

  • Funds training opportunities: Supports training for members of the research projects, e.g. via the award of MSc and PhD scholarships in Africa; sponsoring visits to labs in Europe and USA and developing training resources.

  • Awards ad hoc grants for attending conferences and training abroad, largely for members of funded research projects.

Since 2002, research grants have been awarded to universities and national agricultural institutions in:


  • East Africa: Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

  • West Africa: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo.

  • Southern Africa: Namibia.

  • India: States of Assam, Delhi, Karnataka, Rajasthan and Telangana.