July 2014

Dear Reader,

Focusing on Innovation Is an Investment in Young People 
The world today has its largest generation of youth in history -1.8 billion young people, mostly in developing countries - with enormous potential to help tackle the major challenges facing humanity. These are the resounding words of U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon during this year's World Population Day celebrated on June 11th under the theme "Investing in Young People".  

What are some of these major challenges facing humanity? Food Security and poverty are some of the first ones that come to mind. Recent estimates place Kenya's population at 47 million by 2015 and over 65 million by 2030. Forty three per cent of Kenya's population is under 15 years and as much as 63 per cent is below 25 years.

By applying a youth focus in its program approach,
USAID/Kenya Feed the Future Innovation Engine is working to ensure that young people are engaged in agricultural development and that the remarkable potential of the youth is harnessed for the economic and social benefit of Kenyan smallholder farmers, and households at large.

This issue of "The Innovator" is dedicated to young innovators who are devising and refining revolutionary
agricultural approaches to fight the challenges of poverty, hunger and under-nutrition in Kenya, to ensure food security for a rapidly-growing, increasingly-young population.      
The Innovation Engine Team
Innovation Engine Innovators Feature in Local, Regional and Global Media


A snapshot of the USAID Frontlines feature on our awardees 
Championing cutting-edge, innovative technologies for improved agriculture in Kenya earned several members of the Innovation Engine family pride of place in a number of local and international media outlets in the month of June. Not least of these is in the July/August issue of USAID's Frontlines Magazine which features two of KFIE's innovations as an illustration of some of Kenya's big ideas to transform agriculture. Frontlines is a bi-monthly e-newsletter published by USAID in Washington, D.C. The current issue focuses on "Grand Challenges for Development", a USAID initiative based on the use of science, technology and innovation to solve important national or global problems. On August 12th, the Feed the Future website featured excerpts of the stories on its home page. A short video summarizing innovations under the program's first wave is currently also featured on the the website's Kenya page.

A July 4th feature story in the UK Guardian entitled Cassava on eBay? M-Farm SMS helps Kenya's farmers get better prices, describes how M-Farm's mobile app is working to remedy the lack of information for smallholder farmers, so that they can see real-time market prices for their produce. The June/July issue of Progressive Farming, an East African print magazine, published a news article on Innovations for food security featuring the first cohort of Innovation Engine awardees, while the June/July issue of SPORE, a global circulation print and online magazine published a short piece on Green Farming: Private Sector Innovation featuring Wanda Organic. In a cover story entitled Innovation in Africa: The Agriculture App Revolution, the July issue of African Business, a  print magazine with global circulation identified M-Farm as well as Wave II finalist M-Shamba as interesting and important agriculture innovations for the region. On July 11th,The Star, a print newspaper with national circulation in Kenya, ran a story Techpreneurship: Is this Kenya's Sure-Fire Answer to Job Creation? The story also mentioned M-Farm as a promising start-up enterprise that is creating opportunities through the use of technology. 
Wanda Organic: Ready and Set to Go as Farmers Reap the Rewards of Going Green 


Wanda Organic Innovation Champion (in white head scarf) with a farmer group in Kikima, Makueni County, in June 2014, moments after setting up one of 27 demonstration plots in the Eastern region.
For Wanda Organic innovation Champion Marion Moon, the month of July ended on a high note with regulator approval to import products Plantmate and Prime EC coming through after a two-and-a-half-year wait. For Wanda Organic - one of the Innovation Engine's seven awardees under Wave I of the program - the Approval for Commercialization Letter represents a major leap from what some might consider a mere "good idea", to a real business initiative.  

Plantmate and Prime EC are at the heart of Wanda Organic's bio-organic fertilizer initiative. By supplying Plantmate Organic Fertilizer, which is produced from plant and animal wastes, and Prime EC Foliar Plant Food, an emulsion soil enricher, Wanda Organic aims to facilitate plant growth and improve soil infertility as well as address current challenges of obtaining organic fertilizer locally. Developed on the basis of over 40 years of research, Plantmate and Prime EC are widely used in Southeast Asia, Indochina, China, and Australia with impressive results. Following successful trials in Kenya in conjunction with the University of Nairobi, the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) gave Wanda Organic the green light for this much-needed, environmentally-friendly innovation. With this license, Wanda Organic can now go full speed into importing and marketing these recently-developed organic fertilizers. The plan is to set up local, strategically-located production facilities in Kenya and East Africa, where Wanda Organic has secured exclusive rights to the technology.

Young, smart, and driven, Marion, who is Wanda Organic's Founder and Managing Director, could not hide her enthusiasm as she announced this new milestone and thanked the Innovation Engine for believing and investing in the innovation.

"We can now move to the next level as the main pieces are in place. It's time to shake up the fertilizer sector!" she said.

Already, farmers testing this proof-of-concept innovation are reporting exciting results. Naomi, a Wanda Organic lead farmer in Nditha Women's Group in Machakos County, has experimented with Plantmate on various crops and adopted it for french beans and tomatoes. Her son Titus, who manages the demo site, has just realized a bumper tomato harvest amounting to three times the usual yields! So enthralled is he with the organic fertilizer, that he has offered Wanda Organic an acre of the farm for any further demonstrations. He has also began championing the use of the fertilizer among neighbors; and interest in the area is growing. Titus bought two goats with part of the profits from the sale of tomatoes and believe it or not - he has named them Wanda in appreciation of the remarkable results from the organic fertilizer!
Patrick (left), owner of this french bean farm, explains the benefits of using Plantmate so far. Next to him is his wife Naomi and their son Titus who has been running the farm. Brian and Marion from Wanda Organic listen keenly 
Measuring Impact: Story from the Field


The new CoolBot-ready building in Makueni County. This will be the first use of the innovation in Kenya. 
To most people, this photo probably just shows an unremarkable orange building, typical of a small shopping center in a small town somewhere in Kenya. But to fruits and vegetables farmers in Matiliku, Makueni County, this building represents hope for improved livelihoods and better nutrition. This is the home of the soon-to-be-installed CoolBot gadget - Kenya's first-ever. University of Nairobi Innovation Champion Dr. Jane Ambuko - one of the awardees under the first wave of the Innovation Engine program - is testing the cooling and cool-storage technology, which is especially useful for perishable horticultural commodities. The CoolBot is an inexpensive controller for a standard window or split-unit air conditioner unit that enables these units to cool rooms down to optimal storage temperatures of 0�C to 15�C, without ice accumulating on the evaporator coils. Once installed in a well-insulated room such as this - constructed from local materials, this relatively-inexpensive cooling system makes cold storage a viable option for smallholder farmers such as Teresia Benjamin - Chairlady of the Kawala Smallholder Farmers Group in this area.

In Kenya, it is estimated that up to 50% of horticultural commodities are lost between production and retail sites. This is two to three times the losses that occur in developed countries. For farmers like Teresia, this means lost income, labor, and inputs. Temperature control is the single most important factor in the preservation of perishable food with every 10�C increase in temperature increasing the rate of deterioration of perishables by approximately two to three times. While most farmers may be aware of the benefits of maintaining a cold chain for perishable commodities, most of them, especially smallholder farmers, lack the capital to invest in standard refrigeration equipment and cold storage rooms. As a result, they are forced to sell their commodities no more than four or so days after harvest to middlemen or brokers who often exploit them and offer as little as a fifth of the fair market price, in the case of mangoes in Matiliku area. The alternative is to simply throw away the produce.

To ensure economies of scale, this proof-of-concept innovation initially targets farmers who are organized in producer groups, market groups or cooperatives. As such, this inaugural CoolBot building has been constructed at the back of Teresia's shop at Jasho Shopping Center in Matiliku area. All the members of the farmers' group will have access to the facility, thus enabling them to store their produce for prolonged periods, and affording them the previously-unheard-of luxury of waiting or negotiating for better prices. So far, the University of Nairobi CoolBot innovation team has partnered with over 300 farmers in Makueni and Migori Counties.

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
Jamila Abass, CEO and Co-Founder of MFarm Ltd.
Jamila Abass, CEO and Co-Founder of M-Farm Ltd. - one of the first seven awardees under the Innovation Engine program - has led
the start-up company to widespread recognition since its establishment in 2010. Through a mobile phone application, M-Farm seeks to address what Jamila calls an "asymmetry of information" for smallholder farmers, and make money in the process.
The  innovation goes beyond giving pricing information to farmers and links them to potential buyers of their produce. M-Farm sends groups of farmers information on buyers looking to purchase their produce and the prices they are offering. Farmers who can supply the produce then respond indicating so. Through agents whom it employs, M-Farm then verifies the produce being supplied, weighs, and collects it at the farm. Farmers are expected to receive payment within the day via M-Pesa.

A Bachelor of Science in Computer Science graduate, Jamila was one of the first African entrepreneurs to be admitted to the Unreasonable Institute's International Fellowship Program, where she trained in entrepreneurship in 2012. In 2010, Jamila participated in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)/Nokia mobile technology entrepreneurship program.

At just 29, this young entrepreneur has managed to attract organizational funding from numerous development partners including UK charity TechforTrade and the M-Pesa Foundation in Kenya. Jamila, one of 19 children from a poor family, left her job as an open source systems developer at the Kenya Medical Research Institute and joined Akirachix, an association that inspires and develops women in technology through networking, training and mentoring. M-Farm was launched soon after the all-girls' Akirachix team won a KSh. 1 million investment prize for the M-Farm concept, at IPO48 - a highly-competitive event which aims to bring emerging software applications and business concepts to the fore. 
M-Shamba Innovator Scoops Agriculture Award in the First Transform Kenya Awards    
Calvince Okello, M-Shamba Founder and CEO 

Calvince Okello, founder and CEO of M-Shamba - one of the Innovation Engine's shortlisted finalists under Wave II of the program, is the 2014 winner of the 

Transform Kenya Agriculture Award. The awards aim to recognize and showcase people and institutions committed to improving the lives of other Kenyans by looking beyond profit and recognizing outcomes that have powerful social impact. The initiative seeks to reward and celebrate the demonstration of values that drive transformation in society. 

This is just one of several awards that the M-Shamba innovation has won. In April 2012,
H.E President Mwai Kibaki presented Calvince with a Top Innovator Award at the African Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation recognizing M-Shamba as an innovation to overcoming food insecurity in Africa. A few months later, M-Shamba won Best Innovator Award at the first Innovate for Africa Enterprise Competition where it was feted as one of the most innovative products in social change and enhancing food security in Africa. 

M-Shamba is an interactive platform that provides important production information, enables smallholder farmers to manage their farms, and links them to markets via mobile apps, SMS and a web application. Calvince Okello, an Acumen Fellow and recent graduate of the 2014 GrowthAfrica Agribusiness Incubator, founded M-Shamba in 2011, while still a student at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT). The company currently provides information to over 4,000 smallholder farmers across Kenya.  

JUNE 2014
The cover of the new USAID Country Development Cooperation Strategy  for Kenya (2014-2018)

The United States Agency for International Development's
recently launched Country Development Cooperation Strategy (CDCS) for Kenya points to the role of youth inclusion and innovation in modernizing Kenya's agricultural sector. According to the USAID Kenya 2014-2018 strategy, despite a number of recent positive transformations in the country, Kenya's development context is marked by numerous, complex challenges including a poor enabling environment for economic growth, poverty, chronic drought, food insecurity, and a growing youth population with limited employment options.

Although agriculture generates 25% of Kenya's GDP and over 65% of exports, the country remains a net importer of food and agriculture depends almost entirely on rainfall. There is considerable scope for using improved technologies. USAID Kenya's new strategy points out that the sector is ripe for modernization, emphasizing that this can only be realized by making agriculture more attractive to young, progressive, entrepreneurial farmers.

The context, challenges, opportunities and strategy for the agricultural sector are outlined as part of Development Objective 3 of the USAID Kenya country strategy under the broad heading of Inclusive, Market-Driven, Environmentally-Sustainable
Economic Growth.  
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