June 2014

Dear Reader,

Innovation in Agriculture is Good for the Environment     
In June, Kenya joined the rest of the world in  marking the World Environment Day - a global platform for encouraging worldwide awareness and action for the environment. Currently celebrated in over 100 countries, the World Environment Day also serves as the 'people's day' for doing something positive for the environment, galvanizing individual actions into a collective power that generates an exponential positive impact on the planet.

For farmers, the environment is a critical issue all-year round. Many times, they are among the first to suffer the effects of soil and water pollution, and the long-term consequences of environmental degradation, such as climate change. Conversely, global food production is energy and resource intensive; it is responsible for 70 percent of fresh water consumption and 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. With more than 30 percent of the world's land mass devoted to farming, agriculture has a tremendous role to play in protecting and preserving our natural resources and biodiversity. Farmers must have access to the latest agricultural technologies and innovations to feed a growing population while ensuring sustainable use of natural resources.

By selecting, supporting and promoting environmentally-conscious agricultural innovations,
USAID/Kenya Feed the Future Innovation Engine is uniquely-placed to ensure that thousands of small-holder farmers in Kenya practice sustainable farming . This issue of "The Innovator" is dedicated to innovators who are devising and refining environmentally-friendly agricultural approaches to fight poverty, hunger and under-nutrition in Kenya.      
The Innovation Engine Team

Innovation Engine Showcases Innovations at Very VIP U.S. Embassy Agricultural Expo



Wanda Organic Innovation Champion Marion Moon demonstrates the benefits of Plantmate organic fertilizer to (from left): Contracting Officer's Representative Makeda Tsegaye, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Heather Higginbottom, and USAID Kenya Mission Director Karen Freeman. 

The Innovation Engine showcased three innovations at an Agricultural Expo at the U.S. Embassy held in honor of visiting U.S. Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources, Heather Higginbottom. U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec and USAID Kenya Mission Director Karen Freeman hosted the visiting U.S. government dignitary.


In a bid to bring the field to the visiting VVIP, Wanda Organic Ltd., Lachlan Ltd. and M-Farm Ltd. exhibited their respective innovations on organic soil fertilizer and plant food, fusion farming technology for potato farming, and mobile telephone technology to connect farmers to markets in the lobby area of the U.S. Embassy. After a Town Hall Meeting at the Embassy, Deputy Secretary Heather Higginbottom chatted with the innovators at the Expo and picked up copies of their profiles to complement summaries of the innovations that were displayed on well-branded posters at each stand. The innovators also showcased produce from their implementation sites in the form of potted, flourishing cabbages in the case of Wanda Organic, and a sack of super-sized "Viazi Power" potatoes from Lachlan. M-Farm presented export-quality French beans from some of the farmers recruited under their innovation. The three innovators are part of a cohort of seven awardees under Wave I of the US $22 million Kenya Feed the Future Innovation Engine program.

Wave I Innovators Learn Human-Centered Design For their Businesses 


On the back of several intense days in the field with Wave I awardees M-Farm Ltd and Wanda Organic, IDEO.org team members Rafael Smith and Shalu Umapathy facilitated  a full-day workshop which provided an overview of the Human-Centered Design (HCD) process, hands-on training in the approach, and brainstorming in teams to identify opportunities for design within their organizations to all seven Wave I awardees. HCD is a creative approach to the development of systems, products, and tools that focuses first on the people being served, enabling them to find a solution that genuinely addresses their identified problems. Instead of considering the challenge merely from a technical perspective, IDEO.org, a non-profit firm based in California and the pioneer of this approach, integrates what is desirable to the end users and the target market. In essence, "What is the problem that we are solving, and why are we solving it?"

Beyond providing financial grants to innovations at various stages of maturity, the Innovation Engine cultivates and coaches selected innovations towards sustainable business models as part of its efforts towards improving livelihoods, reducing poverty, and improving nutrition. This short-term technical assistance - provided in
partnership with IDEO.org is tailor-made to suit the needs of each innovator. This unique technical assistance is aimed at ensuring the technical feasibility of each innovation and bolstering organizational capacity to ensure that entrepreneurs can effectively implement and manage their projects, and ensure strong financial and market-entry strategies for sustainability.

The HCD training not only shared the fundamentals of human-centered design, but also created opportunities for each innovator to apply it to their own practice in a time-efficient manner. After the workshop, each team was given an assignment to report their progress on HCD. IDEO.org is currently providing one-on-one follow-up to innovators to provide additional coaching and feedback on the HCD approach.
In late May, two IDEO.org staff members followed french beans harvested from one of M-Farm's implementation sites in Makueni to the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. The photo above shows the produce being unloaded at the exporter's packing house for sorting and grading.
Measuring Impact: Story from the Field
If seeing is believing then farmers in Makueni and Machakos Counties who are trying out Wanda Organic's environmentally-friendly organic fertilizer innovation are well on their way to becoming converts of this new approach to productivity, thanks to results emerging from demo plots in the two counties. Plantmate Organic Fertilizer works to unlock soil nutrients and improve soil fertility thus working to increase crop productivity and improve quality of produce and in turn addressing issues of food security and livelihoods, as well as nutrition.

For Maggie, a vegetable farmer in Machakos, the results of organic
Wanda Organic Innovation Champion Marion Moon speaks with Maggie, a lead farmer in Kathiani, Machakos County who is also testing the organic fertilizer concept with excellent results.
fertilizer Plantmate Organic Fertilizer and Prime EC Foliar plant food, speak for themselves. french beans growing on her demo plot using the organic products are flourishing! Pius, a member of a farmers' group in Machakos who has dedicated a section of his farm to demonstrating how the innovation works, has seen the vast difference in the quality and quantity of tomatoes and cabbages he is growing. Given the positive experiences with this proof-of-concept innovation, w
ho better to share knowledge on the organic fertilizer than the farmers themselves?

With this in mind, early in June, Wanda Organic organized two peer-to-peer exchange visits for 13 lead farmers from Machakos and Makueni Counties to share their experiences with the fertilizer, and foster further understanding of soil fertility and crop nutrition, and their correlation in the context of soil health. As Makueni farmers visited their counterparts' demo plots in Machakos and vice-versa, they evaluated each others' performance and awarded points using an assessment checklist. Two lead farmers from each county emerged as winners in the competition which brought to the fore farmers' understanding of various agronomic practices, the demonstrations, and their intended benefits. The peer exchange was not only fun but also very beneficial for enhancing product knowledge and building brand loyalty, alongside the efforts of 15 farmers who have been recruited as Wanda Balozis (Wanda Ambassadors). The Ambassadors are training fellow farmers on the benefits of the organic fertilizer, and fostering adoption in these regions.
So far, Wanda Organic has partnered with at least 18 farmers' groups in these counties (totaling approximately 347 farmers), and set up 27 demo plots to prove the innovation, which is in use in a number of countries including Thailand and the Philippines. The innovation is driven by concerns that while declining smallholder productivity calls for the use of fertilizer to boost productivity, synthetic fertilizers carry high ecological and environmental costs. It also seeks to maximize the benefits of improved seeds and water management technologies by improving soil fertility in an environmentally-sustainable fashion. The p roject aims to directly impact 2,700 people (540 households) within 16 months.

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.  
Lead farmers from Machakos visit a demo plot managed by their peers in Makueni
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
Louise Labuschagne,  Co-Director of The Real IPM Company.
Louise Labuschagne is Co-Director of The Real IPM Company (K) Ltd. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is the core business of this Thika-based
joint venture between Louise and Henry Wainwright, her husband. Louise has extensive practical field experience in developing IPM protocols for fruit, vegetable and flower crops in Europe and Africa, which have resulted in substantial reductions in pesticide use by commercial growers, thus reducing degradation of the environment. She has been instrumental in the development of commercial mass-production capabilities for indigenous natural enemies and bio-pesticides in Kenya, from the initial bio-prospecting surveys to registration and commercialization. With support from the Innovation Engine, Real IPM  is working with the International Center of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) to market an isolate of Metarhizium anisopliae ICIPE 69 - a fungus which kills fruit fly. Field trials in South Africa have given excellent results in controlling the pest in apple orchards. In Kenya, this environmentally-friendly product will be tested in mango orchards. The project involves soil applications of the fungus as well as regular foliar sprays. This is combined with a method for auto-dissemination of the fungus through pheromone-baited inoculation stations. Louise is proactive in identifying new opportunities for biological control agents capable of replacing pesticides in crops as diverse as coffee, bananas, flowers, nuts, vegetables and fruit. She continues to learn from practical successes in small-scale vegetable production, including rearing of beneficial insects for release in farmers' fields. British by descent, Louise provides technical consultancies to several UK supermarkets on Integrated Pest Management issues.
M-Shamba Innovator Wins Transform Kenya Award   
Participants at a proposal development workshop/public information session in Eldoret


The Transform Kenya Agriculture Award went to Calvince Okello, founder of M-Shamba - an interactive platform that gives farmers information on how to grow and manage crops and links farmers to transporters and buyers.
Read more at: http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/business/article/2000128826/pomp-and-dance-as-standard-group-partners-reward-kenyan-achievers?pageNo=1  

Calvince Okello founder and CEO of Mshamba and recent graduate of the 2014 GrowthAfrica agribusiness incubator  won in the agriculture category at the inaugural Transform Kenya Awards.

The company provides information to over 4,000 small holder farmers spread across Kenya through an interactive platform that provides them with important production information, enables them manage their farms and link them to markets via mobile apps, SMS and a web app.

The Transform Kenya Awards aims 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. It aims at rewarding the demonstration of values that drive transformation in society and celebrate those values.   



Third Call for  Proposals
Closes; Review Ongoing 


The third call for proposals under the Innovation Engine program came to a close in June and submitted proposals are currently being reviewed for shortlisting. Stand by for more news on this!

The next deadline for submission of proposals under Wave IV of the program is October 27th, 2014. Eligible innovators include: domestic and foreign private sector commercial enterprises;
Kenyan and East African business and trade associations; Kenyan and foreign non-profit organizations; domestic; regional and international higher education and research institutions; and i ndividual innovators who must be Kenyan nationals and over the age of 18 years (for Stage 1 innovations only). Tell a friend or send in your innovation now!

360-degree Nutrition Strategy & Feed the Future Impact Video    
Accelerating Progress to End Global Hunger: This video explains the Feed the Future inittiative and outlines progress to date.
It is not news that the world is facing a serious  challenge feeding its growing population in a sustainable manner. In essence, how can we provide 70 percent more food to feed 9 billion people by the year 2050, while still protecting the planet? Furthermore, over the last few decades, food security conversations have developed from how best to deliver relief food to questions of access to high-quality food quality of sound nutrition value. These are some of the global issues that influenced the development of the United States Agency for International Development's 360-degree Nutrition Strategy at the end of May this year. The strategy pledges to improve nutrition for mothers and give 2 million more children a stronger start in life with a new approach that will integrate nutrition priorities into USAID's largest programming streams - health, agriculture, and humanitarian initiatives - with a focus on results.

USAID's new multi-sectoral nutrition strategy partly builds on the successes of President Barack Obama's Feed the Future initiative to combat global hunger and poverty. The program, which is built on the belief that that global hunger is solvable, shows encouraging progress towards this goal as shown in the latest report and impact video.Through Feed the Future, as well as food assistance and health programming, USAID and partners have reached more than 12.5 million children with health interventions to reduce the threat of hunger, poverty, and malnutrition in just the last year alone.

A new global campaign " Global food security: Why it affects us all" by Devex and partners in the Ag industry is also working to shed some light on how to feed our planet's growing population sustainably.
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