A Bio-Innovate project is working on sorghum that is well suited for western Kenya where few other crops can grow. Sorghum growing in western Kenya is held back by weeds, low soil fertility, drought and disease. Crop loss can be total in bad years. First results suggest this new breeding approach could raise yields by at least 20%. Bio-Innovate will help the farmers choose the right varieties for different areas and possibly involve seed companies in the production of seeds for distribution. Initially, a million people are set to benefit, with about 3 million total gaining in the long term (Onkware Augustino, Bio-Innovate sorghum and millets Project Consortium 1 co-principal investigator in Kenya).
With a population of nearly 40 million, shrinking forest cover and an on-going reduction in rainfall, Kenya faces increasing food shortages. Bio-Innovate, through the BecA facilities and infrastructure, offers the region a way to train local scientists to tackle these challenges (Shaukat Abdulrazak, Secretary and Chief Executive of the National Council for Science and Technology in Kenya).
For hundreds of years, coffee and sisal have been grown across large areas of Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia. Each year, this produces thousands of tons of toxic waste and slowly-degrading by-products such as fibres, which are left on the land, and end up by polluting both the soil and water. Now new bioscience techniques have developed ways to use these waste products for mushroom production. This process reduces toxins, breaks down the fibres, and leaves the residues suitable for bio-gas production—a huge asset in East Africa where many parts suffer from energy shortages. Overall, millions of people could benefit (Amelia Kivaisi, Bio-Innovate Environmental Consortium Project Principal Investigator in Tanzania). Citation: Kivaisi, A. 2011. Recycling toxic agricultural waste creates employment and improves environment. Video. Nairobi, Kenya: ILRI.
Bio-resources Innovation Network for Eastern Africa Development (Bio-Innovate) Program, which is hosted by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) began in January 2010 with support from the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida). This five-year program is investing USD12 million in funding about a hundred scientists and policymakers from Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.