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Partnerships for Sustainable Innovations in Agriculture    

Rapid scaling of innovations marked the first quarter of this year for the Innovation Engine. Partnerships are all the rage as program awardees ramp up implementation, pursue strategic partnerships and continue to attract the interest of various investors to grow their enterprises and expand their reach among smallholder farmers.

Several enterprises partnered with a range of institutions including Equity Bank, Microsoft Technologies, Safaricom Ltd., the International Potato Center and the Agricultural Development Cooperation, bringing to over $4million the total amount of private sector investment leveraged so far. Several awardees, among them Indicus East Africa Ltd., Kenya Biologics Ltd., Wanda Organic Ltd., and Kenya Livestock Marketing Council (KLMC) partnered with numerous county governments as part of efforts to leverage USAID resources with public resources to grow innovations to scale.

The results are telling; the Innovation Engine has reached nearly 180,000 rural households with new technologies to date, almost 125,000 of which have applied these innovations to improve productivity and livelihoods and boost food security.  

  The Innovation Engine Team
Vital Innovation Resource Now in the Public Domain  
USAID Office of Economic Growth Chief Mr. Mark Carrato hands a copy of the HCD Toolkit to Kenya's Cabinet Secretary for Sports, Culture and the Arts Hon. Hassan Wario during a joint media event held recently in Kisumu County.






Kenyan entrepreneurs, innovators, and knowledge-seekers now have free and easy access to a cutting-edge information resource that provides broadly-applicable design expertise for various sectors. The Human-Centered Design (HCD) Toolkit is now available in public libraries following a recent media launch that marked a new initiative between Feed the Future Kenya Innovation Engine program and the Kenya National Library Services (KNLS). The resource is available in print as well as online on the KNLS website and on e-readers in branch libraries.

Human-centered design refers to a problem-solving approach that begins by gaining a deep empathy for people and considering their needs, hopes, and aspirations when designing solutions for problems they face. Developed by international design firm and Innovation Engine implementation partner IDEO.org , the Toolkit guides users through the HCD process from conception to implementation. It provides innovators and other knowledge-seekers with relevant expertise to design user-centric innovations and thus enhance their global competitiveness. The approach has been applied in the health, financial inclusion, agriculture and other sectors in numerous countries worldwide.

So far, KIE has employed the HCD framework to help 24 agricultural innovations test, design and pilot market-driven technologies to better satisfy the needs of smallholder farmers and other stakeholders. R
ead the event press release here and click to watch K24 TV's online clip on the new partnership. The Star's print and digital outlets, Capital FM's early morning and mid-morning news segments, and KASS FM, Tanda Biashara, and Kenya News Agency also covered the event.     
Money Follows Money: Start-Up Social Enterprise Attracts $1.2m in Private Sector Investment    
Agriculture and Livestock Cabinet Secretary Hon. Willy Bett (center) and USAID Kenya and East Africa Mission Director Ms. Karen Freeman (left) present a plaque to iProcure Co-Founder/MD Stefano Carcoforo (right) and Co-Founder Nicole Galetta to mark a seed funding and technical assistance award from USAID in May 2016.  
 
Since 2016, Innovation Engine awardee and start-up company iProcure Ltd. has attracted over Sh120 million ($1.2million) from four investors to grow its Last Mile Distribution Platform. Through this innovation, the I.T.-based company helps smallholder farmers in Kenya access quality inputs for better productivity. iProcure aggregates demand for inputs from smallholder farmers, sources for the inputs directly from local wholesalers and manufacturers and delivers them in locations as close as possible to the farmers. This streamlines the supply chain, lowers costs and ensures affordability and timely delivery for smallholder farmers, even in remote areas - a huge challenge in the local context. As a result, smallholders are enjoying savings of at least 30% on genuine input purchases.

So how did this little-known social enterprise draw such significant investment, barely four years after inception?

"Initially, we funded iProcure using our own capital but this was not enough to make us fully operational," Stefano says.

USAID's 2014 solicitation for innovations via the Innovation Engine program was just what the company needed; iProcure won a Sh5.9million ($66,159) seed funding and technical assistance award to test the innovation and strengthen the company's internal processes and systems. Within a year, the company surpassed targets to serve over 2,000 farmers in Machakos and Makueni Counties. iProcure qualified for the next level of USAID funding under the program; in 2016, USAID awarded iProcure Sh38.8 ($381,104) to roll out the innovation in Meru, Uasin Gishu, Nandi, Bomet and Homa Bay Counties.

The initial grant from USAID, coupled with the follow-on funding, better business systems as a result of technical assistance provided under the award and impressive impact among customers lent credence to the company and strategically positioned iProcure to approach other investors for additional funds
.
Additional partnerships are currently in the pipeline setting iProcure well on its way to sustainable business growth. 
 
iProcure currently serves almost 21,000 farmers and expects to scale up to at least 34,000 in East Africa in the coming months with USAID support.
Tag, Trace & Trade! How KLMC's Livestock Identification Innovation is Helping Farmers    
Left: Wesley Too looks on as one of his sons (extreme right) works with KLMC staff to tag the Too's herd on their farm in Nandi County. Right: Innovation Engine Chief-of-Party Ms. Titianne Donde-Ommes tags an animal on Mr. Too's farm in March 2017.
 
Lack of livestock identification and traceability systems in Kenya limits market prices farmers can realize, as well as access to county support on artificial insemination, feeds, and veterinary services. To mitigate this, Kenya Marketing Livestock Council (KLMC) is rolling out its Livestock Identification and Traceability System (LITS) in Turkana, Kericho and Isiolo Counties with USAID's support through the Innovation Engine.

By partnering with local governments in the latter two counties and working with cooperatives here, this year alone, KLMC has tagged at least 9,000 livestock and recorded information on the animals' identification numbers, age, sex, breed and other physical characteristics. These include color, extension and veterinary services received, name and contacts of owners, and the name of the animals' location or source markets. The information, which is provided in a searchable database, is helping to not only reduce livestock theft, but is also supporting disease surveillance and helping to minimize the spread of trans-boundary animal diseases by enabling better-targeted veterinary responses in affected areas.

The system offers immense benefits for farmers; traders are offering significantly better prices for tagged livestock because they can track the ownership and medical history of the livestock and thus accurately value the animals. Reports so far indicate that a tagged bull is worth double the price of an un-tagged bull in export markets.


For farmers such as Wesley Too and his sons (pictured), KLMC's LITS innovation is proving to be the solution to challenges in improving their herd's breed quality. Over and above improved productivity, the innovation also affords the Toos access to relevant and timely government-run extension services and enables them to engage in more profitable livestock trade. 
Artificial Insemination's New Face: Defying Gender Norms in Technical Services for Livestock  

Priscilla Rugendo perfecting her trade in the typically male-dominated A.I. industry

February 11 was the International Day of Girls and Women in Science - a day to celebrate the contributions of women working and thriving in scientific fields. During a field visit, the Innovation Engine team met a fine example of a Kenyan woman who represents a new generation of female role models who are challenging gender norms by pursuing careers in typically male-dominated fields.

Meet 22-year-old Priscilla Rugendo, holder of a Bachelor of Science in Animal Health and a graduate of a class of 40 artificial insemination trainees the Innovation Engine supported through Indicus East Africa Ltd.

In March 2017, Priscilla, graduated among the top students in her class and became a fully-fledged animal health technician equipped to provide artificial insemination services to farmers in her locality. Priscilla is now on a three-month internship at an
Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC) farm, where she is gaining valuable experience in animal health management. She is looking forward to finishing her internship and acquiring the equipment she needs to start providing essential A.I. services to help farmers improve on breeding and dairy productivity.

"I am pursuing my passion and loving the science of it! If I am in any way inspiring more women and girls to pursue careers in scientific fields while I am at it, then I am all for it!," says Priscilla.

With USAID support through the Innovation Engine, Indicus has trained 200 artificial inseminators - 29 of whom are women - at subsidized rates.
Photo Story from the Field: Sh10m in Timely, Life-Saving Insurance Payout for Livestock Farmers
Left: Muslina Ali, 28, bought her first Takaful contract in August, 2016 and she just received her first payout. "I'll use the money to buy feed for my animals, buy food for my children, and buy some materials for my home," she says proudly. After the payout, she decided to register again for another contract. Right: A man from Nadhir village in Garissa County receives a payout from Takaful staff this March.
 
The grim images of emaciated, or even dead, livestock as one travels through Kenya's arid north eastern region are hard to forget. There is hardly any shade or water for kilometers - just countless mounds of fine sand, and the scorching heat saps the life out of virtually every living thing in this harsh environment.Yet another drought has left the largely nomadic communities here at the mercy of the elements.

The picture is markedly different in areas where Takaful Insurance of Africa (TIA) is rolling out an index-based livestock insurance innovation. Here, thanks to this product, farmers are confident that their livelihoods, and therefore their families' survival are assured, even in the worst of dry spells.Takaful's product ensures that farmer clients receive cash during drought to buy feed for their livestock and thus save their herds and protect their livelihoods. 

Click here for the latest photos from Garissa County where we captured the effects of the drought and recent payouts amounting to Sh10m to clients.  
The Innovation Engine
Feed the Future Kenya 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.

Nearly 180,000 households have benefited from innovations and over $4m worth of private sector investment leveraged.

Featured Innovator

UoN Horticulture Unit Head Dr. Jane Ambuko 
Dr. Jane Ambuko
heads the Horticulture Unit at the University of Nairobi's Department of Plant Science and Crop Protection. The recipient of the prestigious AWARD (African Women in Agricultural Research and Development) Fellowship, the Norman Borlaug Fellowship, and several other grants, Jane holds a doctorate in Horticultural Science and has years of experience in academia and development work.     

Since 2008, Jane has lectured, carried out research and outreach at the University, and coordinated students' research projects as well as the MSc. Horticulture Program. She has played an active role in building linkages with other institutions locally and internationally.

With seed funding and technical support from USAID through Feed the Future Innovation Engine, UoN, with Jane as the Innovation Champion, customized and tested the CoolBot - an electronic gadget designed in the U.S. - for the Kenyan context. The technology works with an air conditioner to provide optimum temperatures for storage of perishable produce at a relatively affordable cost. The UoN project team also trained farmers on good harvest and postharvest handling practices and other low-cost cold storage technologies. Farmers testing the innovation have enjoyed up to five times the typical selling price at the market during mango season in the market.

Jane's passion and expertise for post-harvest management and preventing food losses and waste led to her being invited as a speaker at  TEDx Nairobi 2014 themed "A WasTED World: Reduce Revise Reclaim" where she spoke alongside other renowned international experts in the field. She recently took the food losses and waste agenda to the global stage as Chairperson of the Local Organizing Committee for the 1st All-Africa Post-Harvest Congress and Exhibition held in Nairobi in partnership with the World Food Preservation Center and a consortium of Universities and Research & Development Institutions in Africa. 
We've Gone Regional! Innovation Engine-Supported Enterprises Cross Borders 
A collage of Wanda Organic Innovation Champion Marion Moon's trip to Nigeria where she met with tomato and potato farmers in Kano and Kaduna States and visited the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) - the premier agricultural research organization in sub-Saharan Africa in Ibadan - Oyo State, among others.     

At least two Innovation Engine-supported innovations recently crossed borders to provide feasible and affordable solutions
to farming challenges to smallholders in these regions.

Kenya Biologics supplied its TutrackĀ® innovation to farmers in Botswana, Zambia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. This follows a recent foray into the Nigerian market where the innovation is currently under test pending product registration there.

Wanda Organic marketed Plantmate Organic Fertilizer to stakeholders in Nigeria with initial sales of one shipping container of the product for testing in potato farming. Company MD Marion Moon also participated in regional media giant NTV's Leadership Forum as part of a panel on "Shaking off the Famine Curse". East Africa is currently experiencing a drought which is threatening food security and livelihoods for up to 20 million people in the region. Watch a clip of some of her remarks at the forum here.         
Events & Media   
Five Innovation Engine Awardees Shine at Sankalp Africa Forum 2017
Indicus E.A. Managing Director and Innovation Champion Tim Chesire (left) with other award-winners at the Sankalp Forum.
 
 
Four Innovation Engine-supported enterprises impressed panelists and other participants at the 4th Annual Sankalp Summit held in February 2017. Amtech Technologies LtdiProcure Ltd, KENDAT (Agrimech Ltd.) and Indicus E.A. made the Sankalp Africa Awards top 10 finalists list beating more than 300 enterprise from across Africa. Of these, iProcure and Amtech Technologies made it to the top-five finalist list, while Indicus East Africa Ltd. won the Investor's Award for garnering the most interest from investors at the forum.

Kenya Biologics Launches New Facility; Marks 10th Anniversary  
 
(L-R): ICIPE Interim Director of Research and Partnerships and Head African Fruit Fly Program Dr. Sunday Ekesi, ICIPE Director General and CEO Dr. Segenet Kelemu, Head of the ITAAC project, GIZ, Germany Dr. Wolfgang Kasten and Kenya Biologics Ltd. Managing Director Mr. Chris Kolenberg during the launch of Kenya Biologics' new facilities and 10th anniversary celebration. Photo credit: ICIPE 
   
  On March 26th, Kenya Biologics Ltd. celebrated its 10-year anniversary with the launch of Kenya's first commercial protein bait factory. The plant, located in in Makuyu, Murang'a County, will produce a bait to control fruit flies. Fruit flies can cause up to 100 per cent loss in fruits. This directly hurts farmers' livelihoods, and also jeopardizes food security and nutrition. The new facilities are the result of an ongoing partnership between Kenya Biologics and the International Center for Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE).

Since 2015, the Innovation Engine has been providing grant support to Kenya Biologics towards testing and piloting the Tutrack - another of its
cutting-edge innovations. The Innovation Engine has also provided tailor-made technical assistance to develop the organization, specifically with regard to product development and testing, business plan development, market study, monitoring and evaluation, business modelling, and I.T. infrastructure. Read more about the new facilities in a Daily Nation article here and on Xinhuanet here.
Global News    
AfDB Commits $24bn to agriculture
AfDB President, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina
The African Development Bank (AfDB) has committed $24 billion towards food production on the continent in the next 10 years with a bias on agricultural industrialization and job creation. The bank lamented rising food imports on the continent, which are gobbling billions of dollars every year. The Bank's president, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina revealed the move during his address at one of the IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings in Washington, DC in April. Food security is at the heart of Africa's development strategy Agenda 2063 to improve livelihoods for millions.


FAO Publishes Report on the Future of Food and Agriculture 

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recently released a report analyzing 15 global trends influencing food security, poverty and food production.
Among other findings, 'The Future of Food and Agriculture: Trends and Challenges,' concludes that while current food systems may be able to produce enough food, they require a "major overhaul" to do so sustainably in the face of rapid changes and transitions. T he report highlights inter-linkages in trends; for example, on agricultural productivity and innovation, the study shows that despite remarkable progress in agricultural technology, the rate of yield increases is declining because of climate change impacts. Agricultural research and development must therefore be combined with resource conservation and adaptation practices such as climate-smart agriculture.
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