March 2014

Dear Reader,
Celebrating Women in Agriculture 
Saturday March 8, 2014 marked this year's International Women's Day under the theme "Inspiring Change". The theme encourages advocacy for women's advancement everywhere in every way and calls for challenging the status quo for women's equality and vigilance inspiring positive change. Agriculture is one sector where the contributions of women are widespread, critically important and rapidly growing. Female farmers account for around 40% of the agricultural work force in parts of the developing world. Reducing the gender gap in agriculture and increasing women's access to resources such as land, seed and water, and to education, technologies and markets will significantly help to lift rural communities out of poverty and reduce food insecurity.

At USAID/Kenya Feed the Future Innovation Engine, we are working to drive agriculture through innovations that help farmers grow nutritious food, reduce post-harvest losses, utilize safe and effective approaches to pest management, and access inputs, technical assistance, extension services, and sustainable markets. Although these innovations inevitably help men as well as women, we are proactive in ensuring that women harness the power of these innovations so we can create more equitable and nourished communities. Take time to reflect, celebrate, and honor the Women in Agriculture around us. 
The Innovation Engine
Seven Innovators Receive Awards for Concepts to Improve Horticulture and Food Security 

The Innovation Engine publicly announced its first cohort of innovators at a flamboyant Award Ceremony officiated by Principal Secretary for the Ministry of Industrialization and Enterprise Development, Dr. Wilfred Songa as the Chief Guest, and USAID Kenya's Mission Director, Karen Freeman, as the Guest of Honor. The Award Ceremony was held at the Horticulture Practical Training Center in Thika.   

Karen Freeman presented commemorative plaques to seven Innovation Champions who will spearhead the initial seven innovations under the program. The innovators are receiving financial and technical support to pilot and roll-out various user-driven interventions that can improve the horticulture value chain. The innovations represent game-changing approaches for thousands of Kenyan families through interventions for enhanced soil fertility, biological pest control, fusion farming, postharvest storage, information and communications technology (ICT) solutions for farmer information services, and supply chain management in a number of counties across Kenya. 
The high-profile event, which has received rave reviews both internally and externally, featured an Innovation Marketplace showcasing 16 finalist entries from the Innovation Engine's first solicitation. VIPs, innovators, invited guests as well as media lingered on well past the official end time of the Award Ceremony and Innovation Marketplace. Read more here. View a clip from NTV Business News here.

Nancy Kemunto, a postgraduate student at the University of Nairobi, receives an award for the CoolBot - an Innovative Cooling Option for Smallholder Farmers - on behalf of Dr. Jane Ambuko her mentor, and the team from the University. 

Innovators Connect at First Innovation Marketplace
Nzuki Waita, Innovation Champion - Act for the Future, takes visitors through his innovation concept. A section of other stalls at the Marketplace can be seen in the background.
The Innovation Engine showcased 16 finalist entries at its inaugural Innovation Marketplace held at the Horticulture Practical Training Center, in Thika, Kiambu County. The exhibition was held alongside an Award Ceremony where the USAID-funded program, together with the Ministry of Industrialization and Enterprise Development, announced seven award recipients under the program's first solicitation wave. The Innovation Marketplace is a key pillar of the Innovation Engine's community of practice, encouraging networking amongst innovators in agriculture and nutrition, facilitating introductions to potential strategic partners, and providing a platform for collaboration-building. Innovators were thrilled at the prospect of connecting with each other and potential partners at such a lively forum. And they were not disappointed!   

"I had the most interesting conversations with so many people - great mix of companies and ideas," said Paolo Mele, an innovator and the Managing Director of Esoko Kenya Ltd. Henry Wainwright, Co-Director of Real IPM - one of the award recipients affirms this. "It was a well-organized day and we made some useful contacts. "We came not only to display our innovations but also to learn from each other," said Dr. Lusike Wasilwa, an Innovation Champion from Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI).


Measuring Impact: Story from the Field
How do we determine if an innovation has a transformational impact on livelihoods and food security? In the last two months, members of our Monitoring and Evaluation team have spent the better part of their time in the field linking innovators with farmers, and studying the structure of farmer groups in preparation for a baseline survey. The baseline survey, scheduled for mid-April, is e xpected to measure the level of indicators such as the number of jobs attributed to Feed the Future implementation, and the number of farmers who have applied new technologies as a result of Feed the Future implementation, before the innovations are implemented.

One such farmer group is Kawala Smallholder Horticulture Farmers Group in Nzaui District, Makueni. The group, established in 2002, is composed of 121 members whose specialty is producing mangoes and citrus fruits, as well as yellow passion fruit and tomatoes. Members of the group face the typical challenges of smallholder horticulture farmers in developing countries including significant losses of their produce between the farm and the market.  The losses translate to lost income for these farmers. Temperature control is the single most important factor in the preservation of perishable food; the rate of deterioration of perishables increases an approximated two to three-fold with every 10?C increase in temperature in the commodity's physiological temperature range.

Kawala Smallholder Horticulture Farmers Group is working with a team from the University of Nairobi, one of the Innovation Engine's awardees, to install the CoolBot technology.  The technology is expected to help preserve their produce after harvesting for prolonged periods, thus extending the marketing period. The CoolBot is a cooling and cool-storage technology that comprises 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 to 150C, without ice accumulation on the evaporator coils. In combination with a well-insulated room constructed from local materials, this locally-available, relatively-inexpensive cooling system makes cold storage a viable option for smallholder farmers. The technology will initially target farmers who are organized in producer/commodity groups, market groups or cooperatives who can benefit from economies of scale. The photo below shows a section of Teresia Benjamin's farm. Teresia is the Chairlady of Kawala Smallholder Horticulture Farmers Group.

Stay tuned to hear more about the impact of this and other innovations on farmers' and communities' lives as we prepare to collect data from this and other implementation sites.
Nancy Kemunto (UoN) and Mutuku Kavoi (USAID/Kenya Feed the Future Innovation Engine) visit a mango farm 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
Susan Oguya is a research junkie and mobile developer who aspires to pour her entrepreneurial spirit into researching and launching mobile solutions for emerging economies. Susan, MFarm Ltd.'s Co-founder and Chief 
Susan Oguya, Co-Founder/Chief Operations, MFarm
Operations Officer, has worked with Kenyan Telcos, research firms, tech women programs and global social impact companies. She was named one of the East Africa Tech Top 20 Young Innovators in 2012, and is also a Global Social Benefit Fellow.
M-Farm Limited is a Kenyan tech company with a focus on increasing the livelihoods of small scale African by creating markets and transparency through SMS and web platforms. This unique organization works to "Connect Farmers and Farm Produce Consumers and Give Price Information of Kenyan Markets". Spearheaded by three young women - Jamila Abass, Susan Oguya, and Linda Kwamboka, this software solution and agribusiness company was founded as a transparency tool for Kenyan farmers who have historically suffered from delayed payments, overpriced farm inputs and middle persons offering too little for their produce. 
Second Call for Innovations Closes; Pitch Event Coming Up!
Friday, March 7   
At 5pm EAT, the curtain closed on the Kenya Feed the Future Innovation Engine's second so licitation for innovations. The Innovation Engine had announced i t s second open and competitive solicitation for innovations in agriculture and nutrition seven weeks earlier on January 17, 2014. The second solicitation wave includes special focus funding windows for innovations relating to nutrition-led agriculture, strengthening the dry land economy, as well as youth employment and inclusion.

The call for proposals under this second wave drew over 300 applications. The Innovation Screening Team is currently hard at work evaluating the proposals, after which an Investment Advisory Committee (IAC) will vet the shortlisted proposals. A Pitch Event where the innovators behind the shortlisted proposals will present their concept to a room of experts, is scheduled for late April.

This second wave is part of an open Request For Applications with several due dates over the course of the year. The next deadline for submissions is June 27, 2014.
KARI and Wanda Organic Come Out Tops in Special Awards at the Innovation Engine's First Innovation Marketplace
Wednesday, March 5
Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) and Wanda Organic Ltd. have each scooped one special award following the Innovation Engine's inaugural Innovation Marketplace held in February.
Top: Dr. Lusike Wasilwa (KARI) shows Judy Warui (USAID) some of the innovative guava products.
Above: a close-up of dried guava.
KARI's innovation  Promotion and Commercialization of Guava won the hearts of invited guests to emerge the winner of the People's Choice Award, while Wanda Organic Ltd.'s innovation  Organic Fertilizers for Smallholder Farmers proved to be the darling of the other innovators and went on to win the Peers' Choice Award.

Dr. Lusike Wasilwa and Marion Atieno Moon, the respective Innovation Champions, will receive the commemorative plaques at low-key presentation ceremonies in the next few days. Congratulations!
Marion Moon, Founder and Managing Director of Wanda Organic, explains her innovation to Richard Stone-Wigg, Founder and CEO of Lachlan Kenya Ltd - one of the Innovation Engine's awardees, and Chris Kolenberg, Manager at Kenya Biologics Ltd. - one of the finalists in Solicitation Wave 1.
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