New program aims to spur state-of-the-art biosciences innovation to fight food insecurity, climate change and environmental degradation across eastern Africa

Bio-Innovate launch: Swedish Embassy's Bjorn Haggmark

Launched today at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the Bioresources Innovations Network for Eastern Africa Development (Bio-Innovate) program will support the fight against food insecurity in eastern Africa (photo credit: ILRI/MacMillan).

A new program that provides grants to bioscientists working to improve food production and environmental management in eastern Africa was launched today at the Nairobi headquarters of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

The newly established Bioresources Innovation Network for Eastern Africa Development (Bio-Innovate) Program—the first of its kind in Africa—provides competitive grants to African researchers who are working with the private sector and non-governmental organizations to find ways to improve food security, boost resilience to climate change and identify environmentally sustainable ways of producing food.

In its first three-year phase, the program is supporting five research-based projects working to improve the productivity of sorghum, millet, cassava, sweet potato, potato and bean farmers; to help smallholder farmers adapt to climate change; to improve the processing of wastes in the production of sisal and coffee; and to better treat waste water generated in leather processing and slaughterhouse operations.

In its second three-year phase, beginning mid-2011, Bio-Innovate will help build agricultural commodity ‘value chains’ in the region and a supportive policy environment for bioresource innovations.

The five-year program is funded by a USD12-million grant from the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida). Bio-Innovate is managed by ILRI and co-located within the Biosciences eastern and central Africa (BeCA) Hub at ILRI’s Nairobi campus. Bio-Innovate will be implemented in Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.

‘By emphasizing innovations to help drive crop production in the six partner countries, Bio-Innovate is working at the heart of one of the region’s greatest challenges—that of providing enough food in the face of climate change, diversifying crops and addressing productivity constraints that are threatening the livelihoods of millions,’ said Carlos Seré, ILRI’s director general.

An increasingly large number of poor people in the developing world are hungry, or, in development-speak, ‘food insecure.’ In sub-Saharan Africa, where agricultural production relies on rainfed smallholder farming, hunger, environmental degradation and climate change present a triple threat to individual, community and national development. In eastern Africa alone, over 100 million people depend on agriculture to meet their fundamental economic and nutritional needs.

Although some three-quarters of the African population are involved in farming or herding, investment in African agricultural production has continued to lag behind population growth rates for several decades, with the result that the continent has been unable to achieve sustainable economic and social development.

‘Bioresources research and use is key to pro-poor economic growth,’ says Seyoum Leta, Bio-Innovate’s program manager. ‘By focusing on improving the performance of crop agriculture and agro-processing, and by adding value to primary production, we can help build a more productive and sustainable regional bioresources-based economy.’

Bio-Innovate works closely with the African Union/New Partnership for Africa’s Development (AU/NEPAD) and its new Planning and Coordinating Agency, as well as with the councils and commissions for science and technology in eastern Africa, to encourage adoption of advances in biosciences. The program builds on AU/NEPAD’s Consolidated Plan of Action for Africa’s Science and Technology and the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP).

‘African governments are appreciating the importance of regional collaboration,’ says Ibrahim Mayaki, the chief executive officer of NEPAD. ‘Collaborations such as this, in science and technology, will enable the continent to adapt to the rapid advances and promises of modern biosciences.’

Bio-Innovate has already established partnerships with higher learning institutions and national agricultural research organizations, international agricultural research centres and private industries working both within and outside eastern Africa.

‘Bio-Innovate is an important platform for pooling eastern African expertise and facilities through a regional Bioresources Innovations Network,’ says Claes Kjellström, Bio-Innovate Sida representative at the Embassy of Sweden in Nairobi. ‘We believe this program will enable cross-sectoral and interdisciplinary biosciences research and enhance innovations and policies that will advance agricultural development in the region.’

The Bio-Innovate team is working with these partners to help guide development and adoption of homegrown bioscience policies in its partner countries and to spread knowledge of useful applications of bioscience. In the coming years, Bio-Innovate staff envision eastern Africa becoming a leading region in the use of biotechnology research and approaches for better food production and environmental management.

Some presentations from today’s launch:

More information about Bio-Innovate:
Short Blip TV clips

Three interviews of Seyoum Leta, Bio-Innovate program manager:

http://ilri.blip.tv/file/4882255/

http://ilri.blip.tv/file/4882101/

http://ilri.blip.tv/file/4881914/

Four interviews of Gabrielle Persley, senior advisor to ILRI’s director general:

http://ilri.blip.tv/file/4882211/

http://ilri.blip.tv/file/4882005/

http://ilri.blip.tv/file/4882481/

http://ilri.blip.tv/file/4882486/

Website:

http://bioinnovate-africa.org/

Pictures:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/ilri/sets/72157624891160295/

Swedish International Development Agency grants US$10.67 million to improve African bioscience


Virus greenhouse at the ILRI Addis

Bio-resources Innovations Network for Eastern Africa Development (Bio-Innovate) announce USD10.67 million grant from the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida).

The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) today announced a SEK80 million (USD10.67 million) grant from the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida) to support the set up of a multidisciplinary competitive funding mechanism for  biosciences and product-oriented innovation activities in eastern Africa (Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda).

The Bio-Innovate Program will focus on delivering new products through bioscience innovation systems involving a broad sector of actors, including scientists, the private sector, NGOs and other practitioners. The program will use modern bioscience to improve crop productivity and resilience to climate change in small-scale farming systems, and improve the efficiency of the agro-processing industry to add value to local bio-resources in a sustainable manner. Bio-Innovate will be user-, market- and development-oriented in order to make a difference on the ground in poverty alleviation and sustainable economic growth.

Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, Chief Executive Officer of the NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency, says: “African governments have recognized the importance of regional collaboration in science and technology to enable the continent to adapt the rapid advances and promises of modern biosciences. In 2005, under the auspices of the Africa Union (AU) and NEPAD, African countries designed and adopted Africa´s Science and Technology Consolidated Plan of Action (CPA). The plan puts emphasis on improving the quality of African science, technology and innovation through regional networking and developing more appropriate policies. Biotechnology and biosciences are prioritized areas in the plan, as has been demonstrated by the work of a high-level AU/NEPAD African Panel on Biotechnology, whose findings are in the publication Freedom to Innovate—Biotechnology in Africa´s Development.”

An Africa-based and Africa-led initiative, Bio-Innovate will draw upon existing expertise and resources from Africa, while forming connections with both African and global institutions to add value to Africa’s natural resources and develop sound policies for commercializing products from biosciences research.

Bio-Innovate builds on the achievements of the BIO-EARN program funded by Sida from 1999 to 2009 and has been developed by a team appointed by BIO-EARN governing board. “The program will benefit a lot from the facilities available at the Biosciences eastern and central Africa (BecA) Hub”, says Hassan Mshinda, Chair of the BIO-EARN Governing Board.

“We recognize the importance of the Bio-Innovate initiative to complement and strengthen the biosciences research in eastern and central Africa,” says Carlos Seré, Director General of ILRI. “We appreciate the support from Sida and are convinced that this innovative program will strengthen Africa’s capacity in using biotechnology for economic development.”

“Sida sees the Bio-Innovate Program as an important platform for pooling eastern African expertise through a regional bioscience innovation network, enabling cross-sectoral and interdisciplinary R&D and policy and sustainability analysis. The Bio-Innovate Program will be integrated into ongoing regional programs and structures and promote bioscience innovation in support of sustainable development in the region”, says Gity Behravan, Senior Research Advisor at Sida.

Notes:
New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD): The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) is a socioeconomic development program of the African Union (AU).  The objective of NEPAD is to stimulate Africa’s development by filling gaps in agriculture, health, education, infrastructure, science and technology. NEPAD explicitly recognizes that life sciences and biotechnology offer enormous potential for improving Africa’s development. Through NEPAD, African countries have committed themselves to establish networks of centres of excellence in biosciences. Four sub-regional networks have been established: the Southern African Network for Biosciences (SANBio), the Biosciences Eastern and Central Africa Network (BecANet), the West Africa Biosciences Network (WABNet) and the North Africa Biosciences Network (NABNet). A recent AU decision to integrate NEPAD into structures and processes of the AU gives the NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency (NPCA) the mandate to facilitate, coordinate and implement the NEPAD agenda.

International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI): The Africa-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) works at the crossroads of livestock and poverty, bringing high-quality science and capacity building to bear on poverty reduction and sustainable development. ILRI is one of 15 centres supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). It has its headquarters in Kenya and a principal campus in Ethiopia. It also has teams working out of offices in Nigeria, Mali, Mozambique, India, Thailand, Indonesia, Laos, Vietnam and China. ILRI hosts the Biosciences eastern and central Africa (BecA) Hub at the invitation of the African Union/New Partnership for Africa’s Development (AU/NEPAD), as part of the AU/NEPAD’s Africa Biosciences Initiative. The BecA Hub is part of a shared research platform on the ILRI campus in Nairobi. The BecA Hub has been established over the past two years, with strong support from the Government of Canada, through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), and ILRI. For more information, please visit our website: www.ilri.org