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/

New Bio-Innovate Program is good news for bio-scientists in ‘bio-rich’ eastern Africa

A new program called Bio-Innovate, which stands for ‘Bioresources Innovations Network for Eastern Africa Development,’ is being launched tomorrow (Wednesday 16 March 2011) at the Nairobi, Kenya, campus of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

Funded by the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida), Bio-Innovate offers competitive funding for biosciences and innovations in six countries of eastern Africa through a Bioresources Innovation Fund. The program accepts applications for regional, multi-disciplinary innovation projects in Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.

More than 80 people—including scientists, policymakers, development practitioners and staff from private companies, donor agencies and diplomatic missions—are expected to participate. They represent national agricultural research organizations and universities, national councils for science and technology, regional bodies and international organizations from within and outside the region.

We interviewed two of the key people, Seyoum Leta, Bio-Innovate’s program manager, and Gabrielle Persley, senior advisor to ILRI’s director general, to tell us what Bio-Innovate is all about. Watch these short interviews below.

And follow the launch tomorrow on the web using the search term #BioInnAfrica2011.

Bio-Innovate Bean Technology Consortium

Seyoum Leta, Bio-Innovate program manager, is interviewed in the following brief films.

Film 1—Bio-Innovate: Addressing the missing link between research and innovation
East Africa has never had the facilities, funding or skilled manpower to undertake agricultural science on a scale that could move from research all the way to new technologies for farmers. Bio-Innovate is a new program aiming to provide that ‘missing link’. It will tackle the big regional problems such as climate change results, and environmental degradation, by the application of bio-sciences, with the direct aim of helping small-scale farmers.

Film 2Over 3 million farmers could benefit from the first projects of a new initiative
Small-scale farmers in 6 East African countries will be the first in the region to benefit from the new Bio-Innovate program. The first projects in the scheme will tackle challenges like the development of more productive varieties of staple crops, and waste re-cycling. Over the next 5 years, the numbers of projects will expand, using Bio-Innovate’s promotion of improvements in policy frameworks, its networks of scientists and research organizations, and the novel links it is building with private sector companies.

Film 3Launching a unique African-based and African-led program on innovations and policy analysis in eastern Africa
16 March 2011 is the official launch date for Bio-Innovate, a unique regional agricultural research initiative that is Africa based, Africa led and focuses on innovations for farmers.

Gabrielle Persley, Senior Advisor to the Director General

Gabrielle Persley, senior advisor to ILRI’s director general, is interviewed in the following brief films.

Film 4New phase of African Bio-Innovate Program will soon deliver solutions to farmers
Bio-Innovate is building on a previous project that trained 20 regionally recruited bioscientists to PhD level. Now the new program plans to move from research outputs into partnerships with private sector players and other delivery mechanisms. The real focus and the success of Bio-Innovate will be delivery of products to African farmers.

Film 5New science program makes use of facilities and expertise at the first biosciences hub in Africa
The choice of location for the headquarters of Bio-Innovate depended on access to the best bioscience facilities and expertise in the region. The Biosciences eastern and central Africa (BecA) Hub, at the ILRI Nairobi campus, provides a vibrant biosciences research platform for advanced research into crops and livestock.

Film 6Bioscience support plus field trials will lead to the development of practical technologies for farmers
Core elements of the work of the Bio-Innovate projects will be done in the field. Through building partnerships within the participating countries, national research programs and the local private sector, evaluation of potential products in the field and scaling up can be targeted to local needs.

Film 7Large African bioscience-based agricultural project targets key famine-type foods and environments
Funding of USD10 million over 5 years will allow projects sponsored by Bio-Innovate to reach the critical mass of financial, agricultural and research resources needed to tackle large-scale regional challenges such as climate change and environmental degradation. In this way Bio-Innovate will help improve food supplies and incomes for small-scale farmers.