January/February 2015

Dear Reader,

Healthy soils for food security and life 
No soil, no food, no life. It is as serious as that. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization
(FAO), healthy soils are the foundation for food, fuel, fiber and even medicine. They are critical for global food production and provide a range of environmental services. And yet, in the words of FAO Director-General Jos� Graziano da Silva, 33 per cent of our global soil resources are under degradation and human pressures on soils are reaching critical limits. This is reducing, and sometimes altogether eliminating, essential soil functions such as providing anchorage for roots, holding water and storing nutrients.  

On December 5th last year,
FAO kicked off 2015 the International Year  of Soils to raise awareness and understanding of the importance of soil for food security and essential ecosystem functions. The IYS also aims to promote more sustainable use of this critical resource.

Now entering its fourth wave, USAID/Kenya Feed the Future Innovation Engine is working with forward-looking entrepreneurs and small-scale farmers to promote innovative agricultural practices for improved productivity, food security and better livelihoods. A good example is organic fertilizer innovator Wanda Organic Ltd - one of our awardees and a passionate advocate for sustainable soil management for the benefit of all people and the secure future of our planet. Read about the #WandaRevolution in this issue and consider your role in helping to manage this often-forgotten resource. 
The Innovation Engine Team
#WandaRevolution Crowdfunding Campaign Kicks Off the International Year of Soils


"My name is Marion Atieno Moon and I see a peaceful and prosperous Africa, in which  
our resources are managed sustainably for the benefit of  
all people and the secure 

           future of our planet." 


In January, Wanda Organic Innovation Champion Marion Moon launched the #WandaRevolution - a crowd-funding campaign to raise $45,000 to pilot Plantmate Organic Fertilizer in Machakos County. Just over a year into the Innovation Engine grant, Wanda Organic's innovation currently involves conducting trials on 35 farms in Machakos and Makueni Counties to test the viability of the fertilizer and the potential for commercial success.  

Wanda Organic Ltd. is a

Differences in root development and general plant health between crop grown with and without Plantmate (left and right) 

small and growing social enterprise established to identify and provide sustainable solutions for soil and plant health. Inspired by the success of Plantmate Organic Fertilizer in Thailand and the Philippines, Marion purposed to implement the concept back home in Kenya to make a positive impact in people's lives. 


So far, with seed funding and technical assistance from the Innovation Engine, Wanda Organic has successfully demonstrated and trialed the products with smallholder farmer groups in Machakos and Makueni Counties. Demand for the products is rising as farmers see the remarkable results for themselves; vegetables grown using the organic fertilizer produce a bigger and healthier yield than those grown using the prevalent synthetic fertilizers. When used in isolation, synthetic fertilizers are damaging to the soil.    

"Unfortunately the current supply chain requires farmers to travel long distances to access fertilizers," said Marion.  


To help address this challenge, the crowd-funding campaign

Wanda Organic CrowdFunding Pitch Video
Why the #WandaRevolution?
This video makes the case.

aims to raise enough money to build two village-level distribution centers and develop mini orchards and gardens to be used as training and demonstration sites.The innovator will also use part of the funds to recruit two agents to manage the distribution centers.


"We want to develop a supply chain that enables convenience and accessibility of bio-organic fertilizers", Marion adds.


Eventually, Wanda Organic hopes to set up a production plant in Kenya to help make the fertilizer more affordable. It currently retails at $35 (approximately KShs 3,000) for a 50kg bag.  


After a two-and-a-half year process attaining the necessary Government approvals to roll out, Marion is very excited about taking the innovation to the next phase of transforming rural agriculture.  


Join the #WandaRevolution now and make your contribution to improving soil fertility, food security and economic growth!


A farmer in Machakos County samples Plantmate Organic Fertilizer 
Story from the Field: Farmers Choose Innovator's Maize Variety at Siaya Field Days


Stunting as a result of striga-weed infestation 
Wave II innovator Maseno University Seed Unit has hit the ground running with the development and testing of new and resilient maize varieties that give high yields, and are resistant to the pesky striga weed.

Maseno University recently held farmer field days in Ulalo (Kisumu) and Nyamninia (Siaya) where 39 farmers were invited to select their preferred varieties based on observation. The majority selected Maseno EH12 which, interestingly, has demonstrated the highest yields so far. Farmers' preference will play a significant role in informing the Seed Unit's decision on which maize variety to introduce to market.

The university is implementing the resistant maize variety project in Siaya and Kisumu Counties in Western Kenya where the weed has been a major challenge in counties along the shores of Lake Victoria for many decades.
Many smallholder farmers here are trapped in extreme poverty due to low and declining crop productivity. Small-scale farmers, the main producers of maize in the region, 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 10 to 38 million US dollars every year. 
By the end of this 18-month project, Maseno University expects to have introduced to market at least two new maize hybrids in the target counties to improve productivity, raise household incomes and boost food security.

Look out for more emerging news as this innovation progresses!

Farmers who selected the Maseno EH12  variety stand next to the demo plot. So far, this variety is giving the highest yields.
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

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.

Featured Innovator
iProcure Co-Founder and Managing Director
Stefano Carcoforo

Innovation Champion Stefano Carcoforo is the co-founder and Managing Director of iProcure Ltd., one of seven awardees under the Innovation Engine's second wave. Born in Kenya, Stefano studied mechanical engineering at Oxford Brookes University in the United Kingdom and later joined the development sector where he oversaw large projects in Cameroon and Haiti. There, he developed systems to improve supply chain processes in the construction industry, which partly inspired the establishment of iProcure. 

iProcure is a web and mobile platform for product distribution, monitoring and optimization based in Kenya. Established in 2012, the company supplies affordable, mobile-based supply chain solutions for small-scale retailers that supply farming inputs to smallholder farmers.

With funding and technical assistance from the Innovation Engine, iProcure is testing its
Last Mile Distribution of Farming Inputs innovation in Makueni County. The innovation leverages existing telecommunications platforms as well as social and physical infrastructure to ensure supply of inputs to smallholder farmers in an affordable and timely manner - a feat which current distribution methods have not yet been able to accomplish. The innovation is expected to help suppliers avoid the costs associated with getting their products to smallholder farmers, thus contributing to lower prices for inputs. At the same time, the innovation will help farmers maintain sufficient stock levels to ensure a convenient supply for farms in a particular region.

With the Innovation Engine's support, iProcure expects to reach up to 2,000 smallholder farmers in Matiliku and Ukia areas of Makueni County within 12 months.  
Innovation Engine Counting Down to Announcement of Latest Award Nominees   
The due diligence team observes farm workers in the western region of Kenya sorting produce in preparation for sale at the market  
Following Innovator Pitch Days held in December 2014, the Innovation Engine embarked on a rigorous due diligence exercise in January 2015 to establish shortlisted innovators' organizational capacity to implement the proposed innovations, and identify gaps that may require technical assistance support.  


Innovations shortlisted in the latest solicitation are based on a variety of models, all in keeping with five special focus windows: the agriculture-nutrition nexus; the dryland economy; youth employment and inclusion; innovative agricultural financing; and innovations that enhance rural women's livelihoods.  

Emergent findings from the due diligence exercise are promising, and the Innovation Engine team looks forward to announcing the new cohort of innovators in the coming weeks.

Stay tuned for more news on the latest awardees!

Coming Up: Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture March 9th - 10th   
Touted as the world's most influential gathering for sustainable agriculture, the Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture will be held in Abu Dhabi from March 9th to 10th this year.

GFIA is the only major international exhibition and conference in the world focused on how technology is employed to produce more food sustainably, whilst using less resources. The forum is considered a focal point for the expanding global movement to change the way we feed the world's rapidly-growing population. GFIA also brings together stakeholders involved in the fight to rid the world of poverty and malnutrition through the advancement of agriculture in developing countries.
The 2015 conference brochure is available here.

Last year, Susan Oguya, co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of Innovation Engine awardee M-Farm Ltd. participated on the e-Agriculture revolution panel where she shared insights and discussed lessons learned from the Kenyan context.
M-Farm co-founder Susan Oguya (second-right) with other members of the "e-Agriculture revolution" panel during GFIA 2014