The Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization is composed of semi-autonomous institutes established under the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Act of 2013. This Act empowers the Cabinet secretary, in consultation with the KALRO Board to establish research institutes that may be necessary for the performance of KALRO's functions under the Act.  The Act also recognise the role of public universities in agricultural research and provides for partnerships with them as associate research institutes. Currently, sixteen research institutes have been established. 
Under the Act, the functions of the research institutes under KALRO shall be to:

1. Advise on, and develop appropriate systems to promote balanced, diversified and sustained agricultural development and to optimize agricultural production through adaptive and investigative research; and
2. Facilitate the use of improved production technology, and to establish adequate feedback systems from agricultural producers in order to achieve and maintain national self sufficiency and export capacities in agricultural products.

It is expected that the Institutes shall conduct research in their respective value chains and disseminate appropriate information and technologies to intended users. Although the key mandate of each institute will be restricted, the various research centres under the administration of each Institute may manage research projects covering multiple value chains and commodities.