Monday, 11 April 2011

Grants to build agricultural commodity “value chains” to improve the productivity of sorghum, millet, cassava, sweet potato, potato and bean farmers

A new program that provides grants to bioscientists working to improve food production and environmental management in eastern Africa was launched on 16th of March at the Nairobi headquarters of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). Visit the website for more information.
The newly established Bioresources Innovation Network for Eastern Africa Development (Bio-Innovate) Program—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.
IIn 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 a second call for proposals, 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 with 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

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. See interview with Gabrielle Persley, Senior Advisor to the Director General of ILRI

Watch the short (2-minute) filmed interview of Calestous Juma by ILRI:

In the interview, Juma, says that biosciences offer many regions in Africa an opportunity to produce surplus food for the first time. ‘Without biosciences research within Africa, agriculture will face a difficult future. The Bio-Innovate Program is important because it will stimulate new industries that are linked to the life sciences. Farmers will not benefit from producing more food unless they can get it to markets to process and sell.
‘Rwanda after the genocide, the first thing they did was to modernize agriculture. And Rwanda has started to feed itself.’