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Opening ceremony

The opening ceremony of the Taita Research Station was organized on the 12th of January 2011. The whole-day ceremony was honored by eminent guests, such as the Ambassador of Finland, Rector of the University of Helsinki, Deputy Director of Kenya Forestry Service and former Minister for Foreign Affairs of Kenya.

The Taita Research Station aims at facilitating multidisciplinary research and education which reverberated throughout the programme followed by more than 40 participants. The Director of the Taita Research Station, professor Petri Pellikka from the University of Helsinki opened the ceremony with welcoming words highlighting the pedigree and previous scientific work carried out in the region. His speech was followed by greetings from the representatives of the Taita District Commissioner and of the Wundanyi Constituency M.P. The inauguration speech was given by H.E. Heli Sirve, the Ambassador of Finland to Kenya.

Taita Research Station is the first research station overseas owned by the University of Helsinki, emphasized the Rector of the University of Helsinki, professor Thomas Wilhelmsson, in his compliments to the audience. “This research station is part of our Africa strategy”, said Rector Wilhelmsson, and simultaneously looked forward to the Memorandum of Understanding which was signed with the University of Nairobi on the 14th of January. Professor Eric Mitema from the University of Nairobi greeted the MoU and the Taita Research Station with satisfaction. He concluded that these new actions will open vast opportunities for research collaboration and exchange of staff and students.

H.E. Ambassador Heli Sirve and rector Thomas Johansson cut the ribbon of the Taita Research Station while Prof. Petri Pellikka holding it.

The first part of the inauguration programme climaxed with the cutting of the ceremonial ribbon by the Ambassador of Finland and Rector of the University of Helsinki. They also planted two saplings of an indigenous tree species Vitex keniensis to the garden of the research station to symbolize the importance of mountain rain forests to the ecosystem services and biodiversity of the area.

Community outreach is also an important part of the daily work of the Taita Research Station. A holistic understanding of people and their environment definately has a cultural dimension too. The opening ceremony concluded with a vibrant Taita music and dance performance by the Njama Mzango Cultural Group.

University of Nairobi was represented by Prof. Eric Mitema, Prof. Agnes Mwangombe, Dr. Faith Karanja and Dr. Florence Olubayo (Photo: P. Pellikka).

All together approximately 60 people were taking part in the opening including governmental authorities from the county, NGO’s from the area and academians from the University of Nairobi and from the University of Helsinki.