October 2014

Dear Reader,

Agricultural Production for Poverty Eradication 
In October, a joint African Development Bank (AfDB)/International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) Report revealed that African countries import $25bn worth of food every year. Only about $1 billion worth of these imports come from trade within Africa. This new data was released during the month that people across the world mark two separate, but closely-related, international days that are tied to issues fundamental to human survival; World Food Day (October 16th) and International Day for the Eradication of Poverty (October 17th). Hunger and poverty are inextricably-linked. It is no coincidence that the United Nations Millennium Development Goal (MDG) No. 1 is "Ending Extreme Poverty and Hunger"; ending hunger is central in the fight against poverty.

"We must implement innovative solutions that not only bolster agricultural performance but also promote agri-food trade and food security,"
said AfDB Group President Donald Kaberuka. Supporting smallholder farmers to produce more can help Africa feed itself. 
Now in its second wave, USAID/Kenya Feed the Future Innovation Engine is working with innovators and small-scale farmers to introduce innovative agricultural practices for improved productivity, food security and better livelihoods. This issue of "The Innovator" is dedicated to our current 14 innovators, all of whom are devising and refining revolutionary agricultural approaches towards ensuring food security, improving agricultural trade, and eradicating poverty in Kenya.
The Innovation Engine Team
Maize Seed Innovation Poised to Improve Productivity, Raise Household Incomes and Boost Food Security in Western Kenya.


Maseno University Innovation Champion Prof. Mathews Dida (left) during a recent field visit in Western Kenya with members of the Innovation Engine team
Many smallholder farmers in western Kenya are trapped in extreme poverty due to low and declining crop productivity. At less than 1.6 tons/ha, the productivity of maize - Kenya's main staple crop, is far below the world average of 2.5 tons/ha. Small-scale farmers, the main producers of maize in this region of the country, bear the brunt of compromised productivity due to the prevalence of crop disease and Striga weed (Striga hermonthica L.), which is found in up to 400,000 hectares of farmland. The ramifications are huge with estimated losses of US$10 to 38 million every year.  
Through the development and introduction of new, resilient, foliar and Striga weed-resistant maize varieties, the Maseno University Seed Unit is working with the Innovation Engine to improve productivity, raise household incomes and boost food security in at least two counties in Western Kenya over a period of 12 months. The innovation, developed using a participatory testing approach that took into account farmers' preferences on the crop's taste, earliness and resistance to disease and Striga, is highly appealing to farmers. For one, the innovative maize variety has a genetic mechanism for resistance and is therefore natural. Secondly, Maseno EH12 and Maseno EH14 - the new Striga-tolerant varieties - are more affordable than the current resistant varieties developed using prevailing chemically-induced approaches.

During the period, Innovation Champion Prof. Mathews Dida and his team will test at least two new maize hybrids with the expectation of
introducing at least one to the market in Kisumu and Siaya Counties by the end of the project. This is good news for the over 15 million residents of the Western Kenya region!


The Innovation Engine's fourth call for proposals for innovative products, services and business models that will enhance agricultural productivity, increase rural incomes and improve nutrition across Kenya recently came to a close. The Request for Applications included five special focus windows related to the agriculture--nutrition nexus, the dryland economy, youth employment and inclusion, innovative agricultural financing, and innovations that enhance rural women's livelihoods.

The latest call attracted significant interest from innovators across the region with over 130 proposals submitted. Shortlisted innovators will have the opportunity to pitch their ideas to an Investment Advisory Committee in the coming weeks, following which the Innovation Engine will make a final determination of new award nominees based on the overall feasibility, potential for impact and sustainability of the proposed innovations.

Look out for more emerging news on this!
Measuring Impact: Story from the Field M-Farm Intervention Takes A Bow 


M-Farm agronomists on a french beans farm in Machakos earlier this year. They monitor on-farm progress to ensure that the crop meets market standards

At the end of October, the implementation phase of M-Farm's intervention under the Innovation Engine came to a close. Just ten months after rolling out into the field, the I.T. innovation has had some noteworthy positive impact on the lives of farmers in Machakos and Homa Bay Counties. A market and user-driven mobile phone platform, the innovation works through the collective sale of largely horticultural produce. From January this year, conveniently-located agents worked through the mobile technology-based model to provide a market for the produce of over 300 farmers registered on the system under the Innovation Engine grant. Central to the innovation is that the M-Farm agents pay a fair price to the farmer, and supply produce to wholesalers under contract.

As the intervention came to a close at the end of October, Serah Mbugua could attest to the benefits gained from testing M-Farm's innovation. For one, she was among 102 farmers who planted french beans for sale to exporter firms AA Growers, Everest, and East Africa Growers (EAGA), with an incremental sale value of over 500% from 13 tonnes of produce traded! This, together with trainings on Global Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) requirements, helped her improve her crop husbandry practices and learn what chemicals to use at various stages of production. Serah and other farmers in Machakos County registered with M-Farm also learned how to handle french beans before and after harvesting so as to improve their quality and quantity. They were also introduced to planting plans as a way of mitigating risks. Initially, farmers in this area would grow their crop in lump sum, meaning that harvesting was also done at once. This was risky since by the time of harvest, the market might be saturated resulting in low returns for farmers. In the same way, an outbreak of crop disease would result in huge losses for the growers. Through relay planting, farmers were able to plant in portions based on market demand, hence minimizing risk.

Additionally, farmers in this county benefited from using contractual farming, which ensured a guaranteed market and assured farmers of a fixed income, cushioning them from market volatility. This was a major improvement from the previous approach of planting blindly and selling to brokers who would then dictate prices to the farmers.

Through this innovation, farmers in both counties were also introduced to the use of ICT in agriculture. With the growing use of technology as a catalyst to modern farming, Machakos and Homabay County farmers who interacted with this innovation can now easily access vital information related to prices of their produce in different markets in Kenya, and share agricultural information amongst themselves. This will help in making informed decisions for increased agricultural productivity, and hopefully revolutionize fresh produce trade between smallholder farmers and wholesalers, thereby helping to improve farming practices and ensure a transparent value chain.

Look out for more documented successes from this innovation!

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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
Abdullahi Gulleid Shuriye during the pitch event in May.
Abdullahi Gulleid Shuriye is a Sociology, Political Science and Public Administration graduate with a passion for development.
Raised in Wajir County - in Kenya's arid north-eastern region, Abdullahi has devoted his post-graduate years to implementing
livestock policy and climate change mitigation programs, and development project planning in arid regions. His assignments in various projects have included helping vulnerable communities to mitigate the effects of climate change, and facilitating interventions for business planning, market information, and skills development at the district level

Under the second wave of the Innovation Engine program, the Kenya Livestock Marketing Council (KLMC) Innovation Champion seeks to strengthen the dryland economy for pastoralist communities through livestock identification and traceability mechanisms. Cattle rustling negatively impacts livestock trade and contributes significantly to poor and stagnating lifestyles in these regions. Lack of livestock identification and traceability systems compounds the problem and makes the vice a lucrative activity for perpetrators, at the expense of the larger population which cannot engage in meaningful economic activities. Wars and lack of food; exemplified by a large malnourished population characterize life in the region.       


By enabling improved surveillance and management of infectious diseases, this proof-of-concept innovation aims to enhance livestock production and trade. The innovation is also expected to help  control livestock movement to support efforts towards containing cattle rustling in Turkana County, the target county.    

Two Innovators Lauded for Efforts to Improve Farmer Productivity and Earnings  
Jane describes the innovation during an interview
In October, The Standard newspaper highlighted the efforts of University of Nairobi Innovation Champion Dr. Jane Ambuko to provide small-scale farmers with low-cost cold rooms for their high-value and highly-perishable horticultural produce. The CoolBot device is like a thermostat and can lower temperatures to below zero degrees. With financial and technical assistance from the Innovation Engine, the technology is currently being tested in Makueni County where at least 280 rural households stand to benefit. A longer shelf life for the farmers' produce translates to reduced losses arising from wastage after harvest, and also means higher earnings as farmers are able to negotiate better prices for what they grow. Read the newspaper article here.

Quest Agriculture's intervention under the Innovation Engine's first wave, also enjoyed its share of recognition for working towards improved agricultural productivity. The Star newspaper featured the innovation (INTENSE - Innovative and Inclusive Training and Extension Services), in an agricultural segment that highlighted some of the firm's achievements in Kenya's dry eastern region. Quest Agriculture has been educating farmers on the importance of analyzing their soil and adopting sustainable farming practices for improved productivity. Kenya's eastern region suffers from poor soils due to continuous cultivation and harmful practices that cause soil erosion. With almost 2,000 farmers using the innovation in Makueni and Meru Counties, productivity is set to rise and with it livelihoods are expected to improve. Read the newspaper article here.

Global Agricultural Productivity Report� Finds Productivity Not Growing Fast Enough to Meet Food Demand in 2050

According to a report released
a day before the World Food Day, the world may not be able to feed itself by 2050, if it does not increase food production.

The 2014 Global Agricultural Productivity (GAP) Report, published by the Global Harvest Initiative (GHI) highlights the importance of agricultural innovations, sustainable technologies, and improved management practices in reducing global greenhouse gases and conserving resources, while increasing output to meet growing needs. Through a number of engaging visuals, the 2014 report emphasizes the need to double global agricultural output in order to meet expected demand for food, feed, fiber and fuel in 2050.  

Launched in 2010, the GAP Report� is updated each year to mark progress towards sustainably doubling agricultural output over the next 40 years.

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