The Eastern Africa Regional Programme and Research Network for Biotechnology, Biosafety and Biotechnology Policy Development (BIO-EARN) was an international collaborative effort to empower four countries – Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda – to realise the potential of the bioscience revolution under local conditions. BIO-EARN supported the four countries in making informed decisions about how modern biotechnology should be used to promote sustainable development in the region. A particular focus of the BIO-EARN programme was to help eastern Africa to use agricultural, environmental and industrial biotechnologies to address local problems and to take advantage of and benefit from the opportunities offered by these technologies.
BIO-EARN was based primarily around a set of strategic regional, interdisciplinary biotechnology R&D projects involving African and Swedish research institutions. These projects focused on improving the yield and quality of African crops such as sorghum, cassava and sweet potato, and on the efficient treatment and use of industrial and agricultural waste for the generation of bio-energy and high-value products. The programme also included a policy component to strengthen the ability of the network of institutions to manage complex collaborative projects and initiate product development partnerships with private sector partners.
BIO-EARN completed its third and final phase in 2010, but the programme’s accomplishments continue to benefit new and existing bioscience initiatives in eastern Africa. For example, a new regional competitive grant-making programme, Bio-Innovate Africa, was launched in 2010 with financial support from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). It already involves many of the scientists who played key roles in BIO-EARN projects.
The BIO-EARN programme was developed by the Stockholm Environment Institute in close collaboration with eastern African institutions and Sida, which funded the programme.