August/September 2014

Dear Reader,

Innovation in Agriculture for Food Quality and Global Trade  
On August 10th 2014, more than 5,000 horticulture farmers and 11 horticulture firms were banned from exporting fresh produce to the European Union (EU) market, due to the high levels of pesticides and other harmful organisms in their produce. Up to 150,000 farmers in Kenya, which is 10 per cent of all horticulture farmers, export fresh produce to the EU. Blocking local producers from the market will directly and indirectly endanger six million Kenyan jobs .Undoubtedly a blow for Kenya, the ban comes after local producers and exporters were accused of consistently shipping produce that has high levels of Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) to the EU. 
Under its first wave, USAID/Kenya Feed the Future Innovation Engine is working to ensure that horticulture farmers in Kenya improve their productivity and livelihoods while ensuring world-class food quality through environmentally-friendly practices. Through a number of innovations that work with farmers to encourage proper use of fertilizers, and the use of affordable and accessible organic fertilizers and bio-pesticides, among other approaches, the Innovation Engine is contributing to nation-wide efforts to protect Kenya's stake on the international market.

This issue of "The Innovator" is dedicated to innovators who are devising and refining revolutionary
agricultural approaches to ensure international-quality food production approaches to guarantee nutrition for Kenyan households and improve farmers' livelihoods.      
The Innovation Engine Team
Innovation Engine Selects Seven Innovators for Second Wave of Awards


iProcure Innovation Champion Stefano Carcoforo makes a point on the second day of the Pitch Event on May 14th
The Innovation Engine is proud to announce seven new innovators under the program's second wave. Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN), iProcure, Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), Kenya Livestock Marketing Council (KLMC), Maseno University, Amtech Technologies, and the University of Nairobi are the newest awardees of the Innovation Engine program following a rigorous shortlisting process which kicked off in April this year.

The seven were among 24 innovators selected from over 250 applicants to present their ideas to
the Innovation Engine's Investment Advisory Committee (IAC) at the Wave II Pitch Event held in May. Innovations under this second wave include farm records management information systems (ALIN), I.T. interventions to manage distribution of farm inputs (iProcure), dissemination of market-resilient new maize varieties (Maseno University), and livestock-identification and traceability mechanisms (KLMC).

Congratulations to the new awardees! Look out for more news on these innovations as they roll out implementation in the coming months! You can also apply for funding and technical support by sending a proposal for the fourth solicitation which closes on October 27th. Apply now!
Bio-pesticides for Safe, Marketable Food: Real IPM's Fruit Fly Pesticide Innovation  


A pheromone-baited inoculation station dusted with Metarhizium and designed to attract fruit flies which then transmit the pesticide to other fruit flies
At one point or another, we have all encountered pesky fruit flies hovering over ripe fruits in our homes and elsewhere. For farmers, the insects are much more than a passing irritation; fruit fly infestations have a serious economic impact on high-value horticultural crops such as mango, avocado, guava, cucumber, pumpkin, melon, tomato, ripe bananas, pepper, citrus and cashew nuts. According to research, the fruit fly seriously threatens the income, food security and livelihood of millions of families that produce and trade in fruits and vegetables. For instance, direct damage to mango production can exceed 80% resulting in mammoth losses for growers. Yet, liberal spraying of regular pesticides is not a safe or sustainable solution to the problem. In any case, globally, fruit flies have proven to be difficult to control due to resistance to chemical pesticides.

Real IPM (Integrated Pest Management) and ICIPE have formed a public-private partnership to control fruit flies in Africa using Metarhizium anisopliae ICIPE 69 - a fungus which kills fruit fly. Real IPM has tested the product in apple orchards in South Africa, with excellent results. The innovation involves soil applications of Metarhizium 69, as well as regular foliar sprays. This is combined with a method for disseminating the fungus through pheromone baited inoculation stations such as the one shown in the image above.

Aside from its effectiveness, a key selling point of the innovation is that there is no pesticide residue and there are no Pre-Harvest Interval restrictions on the use of Metarhizium 69. This means it can be sprayed even right up to the time of harvest, when fruit flies are in fact more of a problem as ripe fruit may have even fallen to the ground.

The innovation, which is currently being implemented in eight demonstration sites in Machakos, Meru, Embu and Makueni, will allow growers to apply a control during the peak fruit fly population, as often as needed. Furthermore, because the product is locally produced, it is low in cost making it affordable to small-scale farmers - the main target users. The innovation is working to train at least 2,000 farmers and work directly with approximately 160 farmers through demonstration sites.


The Innovation Engine recently published its fourth call for proposals for innovative products, services and business models that will enhance agricultural productivity, increase rural incomes and improve nutrition across Kenya. The Request for Applications includes five special focus windows:  
  • The agriculture-nutrition nexus
  • The dryland economy
  • Youth employment and inclusion
  • Innovative agricultural financing
  • Innovations that enhance rural women's livelihoods
Apply now for funding and technical support, or tell a friend!

Measuring Impact: Story from the Field


Just a few months after rolling out into the field, Lachlan Ltd.'s Viazi Power innovation has smallholder farmers in Bomet and Meru excited about improved productivity and higher returns from potato farming. And with good reason.

Martha Johna exclaims excitedly at the impressive potato harvest from the family farm 
For Martha Johna, also known as Mama Joseph,
her family farm in the green and hilly countryside of Timau in Meru County has never been more productive. In September, her son Joseph - who manages the farm - harvested the largest, healthiest potatoes she says she has ever seen; the 0.063 acre potato farm yielded a bumper harvest of 11 bags of Irish potatoes - more than twice the  typical harvest!

Rolled out in mid-2014, Viazi Power works by taking the best of synthetic chemical and fertilizer products, and combining their application with the best

Viazi Power-sized potatoes from a family farm in Timau, Meru County

"bio-control" products, in a holistic fusion of seed treatment and foliar application. The technology not only helps farmers increase yield and crop quality at a sustainable cost, but also preserves soil fertility, and helps generate economic yields in adverse environmental conditions and poor soils. Through a training and monitoring component that helps farmers to adhere to best practices in pesticide management, and keeping in mind allowable residue levels for food safety, the innovation aims to help small-scale farmers ensure safe produce while achieving sustainable yields, even where the use of fertilizers is limited due to poor cash flow and other constraints. Through the Kenya Feed the Future Innovation Engine, and with funding from the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Viazi Power is currently being piloted in Meru and Bomet counties in Kenya.

Joseph, a farmer in Timau proudly displays his double harvest 


With the evident possibilities

that Viazi Power presents for farmers' livelihoods, uptake of the innovation is on the rise. Agrodealers are pleased with the steady rise in demand for the product, which farmers say is much cheaper than conventional fertilizer approaches and delivers high yields that speak for themselves.  


Look out for more on the impact of this and other innovations on farmers' and communities' lives as the Innovation Engine works with innovators in the agricultural sector in Kenya. 

The Innovation Engine
USAID/Kenya Feed the Future Innovation Engine identifies, fosters and brings to scale innovative market-driven solutions to persistent food insecurity, under nutrition and poverty by partnering people who design new concepts, products and services with investors who can maximize their commercial potential.

In This Issue
Featured Innovator
University of Nairobi Wave II Innovation Champion Prof. James Muthomi at the Innovation Engine Pitch Event in May 2014 
One of seven new awardees under Wave II of the Innovation Engine, University of Nairobi Innovation Champion James Muthomi is an Associate Professor
at the Department of Plant Science and Crop Protection in the University of Nairobi's Faculty of Agriculture. Team lead for an innovation on low-cost optical sorting to remove mycotoxins from maize in local Kenyan mills, Prof. Muthomi has written and secured funding for over six research projects in the last five years, four of which have been successfully implemented to completion. With support from USAID, Prof. Muthomi and his team will test a single-kernel sorting technology that can empower disadvantaged consumers of maize in Kenya to directly manage their family's risk of exposure to mycotoxin contaminants in maize by using a simplified visible to infrared grain sorter which rejects the most highly contaminated kernels in bulk maize.     

As the head of the Crop Protection Section in the Department of Plant Science and Crop Protection, and the Chairman of the Faculty of Agriculture Postgraduate Committee, Prof. Muthomi also coordinates Open and Distance Learning for MSc. Crop Protection. He teaches microbiology, plant pathology, plant disease epidemiology and seed health, bacteriology and phytosanitary measures. His research interests include management of mycotoxins in cereals, legume diseases and plant disease management. He has published 46 papers in international peer-reviewed scientific journals and over 47 papers in conference proceedings. 
What a "Wanda"! Organic  Fertilizer Innovator Spurs Youth To Farming
A snapshot of the feature article as published in the Saturday Standard
In September, Wanda Organic Innovation Champion Marion Moon relayed her corporate sector-to-agriculture career move in a full-page feature story published in the Saturday Nation.

In a segment targeted at young women, Marion - a business management graduate with some experience in media planning and consulting - took the plunge and returned to Kenya from travels in Asia to set up a business. Inspired by the success of Plantmate Organic Fertilizer which she had witnessed in Thailand and the Philippines, Marion, purposed to implement the concept back home in Kenya to make a positive impact on people's lives.

The result is Wanda Organic Ltd., a small and growing business, and one of the first awardees of the USAID-funded Kenya Feed the Future Innovation Engine. Plantmate, the innovation under implementation, facilitates healthy plant growth and improves soil fertility. As farmers adopt it, the aim is that they begin to embrace more progressive and sustainable agricultural practices that have been proven to increase yields, reduce crop cycles, suppress diseases and improve soil health, thereby helping them to increase productivity and profitability.

Using funding and technical assistance from USAID, Wanda Organic is conducting trials on 35 farms in Machakos and Makueni Counties to test the viability of the innovation and the potential for commercial success. As harvesting continues, uptake of the product is rising as farmers see the positive results for themselves.

"You don't have to be an expert in the field. You can employ agricultural experts to help you as you manage the smooth running of the business," concludes Marion.
After the first-ever U.S.-Africa Leaders' Summit held in Washington, USAID announced food security, climate-smart agriculture and resilience as one of its top development priorities.

Aside from highlighting the $100 million Global Partnership for Resilience (GPR), which was recently launched by USAID and The Rockefeller Foundation, the United States expressed strong support for the concept of a Global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture (GACSA), and invited African countries to join the United States in announcing their intention to join such an Alliance. Subsequently launched on September 23rd in New York, GACSA is expected to engage a range of government, multinational organizations, private sector, farmers and civil society stakeholders to achieve sustainable increases in agricultural productivity, greater resilience and a reduction of agriculture-related greenhouse gas emissions.

During the global event, USAID also committed to support the African Union's focus on women in agriculture.  


Read the full announcement here

Contact Us

Land O'Lakes Inc., 

International Development.

Peponi Plaza, Westlands



Tel: +254 (0)722 517 149  

+254 20 232 9639

+ 254 20 232 9749
+254 20 232 7831

 Visit our website


Kenya Feed the Future Innovation Engine

Copyright � 2014. All Rights Reserved.