Originally published on November 9, 2015.
Since February 2014, USAID - through its Feed the Future Kenya Innovation Engine (KIE) program
implemented by Land O’Lakes - has been working to identify, foster, and bring to scale innovative market-driven solutions to food insecurity, under-nutrition and poverty.
To date, following four solicitation waves, USAID has invested over $1.2 million in the form of grants to 17 innovations, which have benefited over 26,000 smallholder farmer households in 13 Feed the Future counties in Kenya. So far, the innovators consist of private sector firms, departments in two academic institutions, and a research institution working in the horticulture, dairy and non-dairy ruminant livestock, maize, and staple food crops value chains.
In July 2015, as part of the Innovation Engine’s mandate to benefit Kenyan and regional institutions by cultivating and broadly disseminating innovative practices, a total of 11 KIE awardees and nominees1
participated in the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) held in Nairobi. The GES was an opportunity for the 11 entrepreneurs to raise the profile of their innovations and link up with potential impact investors and other private and public sector partners for potential scaling up and sustainability of the enterprises. The forum also helped the innovators to rethink and sharpen their business models and hone their pitching skills.
United States President Barack Obama officiated the international event, during which he made special mention
of innovator Jamila Abass, CEO and co-founder of M-Farm Ltd.
, a KIE-supported innovation, during a highly-publicized address to the nation.
KIE Innovation Champions who attended the GES during a post-summit debriefing session.
For Kenya Network for Dissemination of Agricultural Technologies (KENDAT)
CEO Pascal Kaumbutho, the knowledge gained was enormous. “Interacting with like-minded entrepreneurs helped improve my business thinking, especially with regard to the typical challenges faced in business development," Pascal said.
According to him, the networks established continue to bear fruit, including links with the Kenya Investment Authority (KENINVEST), senior government and private sector persons, and fellow entrepreneurs in South Africa, Congo, and Nigeria, with whom discussions are ongoing. Pascal was so impressed that he published a blog titled “It's the Entrepreneurs who will Change the World!”
, detailing his experiences from the GES.
At the summit, Caytree Partners'
Innovation Champion Karibu Nyaggah engaged with senior Chase Bank officials, and is now exploring possible collaboration with the bank. This is aimed at tapping into the bank’s customer base to provide financial accounting solutions or incorporating clients into the innovation’s online marketplace. Caytree Partners is testing a financial empowerment and loan assistance innovation in Meru County.
For Value Farms Ltd.
Executive Director Peter Waga, the best outcome from the GES was information on how to advance his business. Peter met with entrepreneurs pioneering a women' health initiative being implemented in Nigeria, which was of interest as rural women form the majority of stakeholders in Value Farm's land consolidation and leasing innovation, one of the pilot roll-out (Stage 2) innovations in KIE’s pipeline.
Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN)
Director James Nguo had the opportunity to share insights on business models for social enterprises with a wide range of innovators at the GES. For James, the event underscored the importance of dreaming big, providing investors with the necessary information for transparency, and having the right structure in order to attract and retain the interest of both venture capitalists and angel investors. ALIN is one of several successful Stage 1 (proof-of-concept) innovations poised for possible further funding to pilot its Farm Records Management Information System (FARMIS) innovation in Kenya.
Louise Labuschagne, Real IPM Co-director, at the GES.
Innovation Champion, Louise Labuschagne, had the valuable opportunity to meet with global retail chain Walmart’s CEO, who pledged corporate partnership with Real IPM. Real IPM is currently following up on these discussions.
Founder and Managing Director Marion Moon had been seeking meetings with the national government without much success. At the GES, Marion had the opportunity to get audience with Kenya's Industrialization and Enterprise Cabinet Secretary Aden Mohammed, with whom she had in-depth discussions regarding the innovation, her brand as an entrepreneur, and the company’s business model. The CS subsequently mentioned Wanda Organic's fertilizer innovation during a nationally-televised interview on Citizen TV, and followed up with a request for KALRO2
to carry out a study on the effectiveness of the fertilizer, to inform a possible partnership with the government.
Marion’s conversation with the CS at the GES also led to her making a series of presentations on the benefits of Plantmate organic fertilizer to senior officials of the Ministry of Industrialization and Enterprise Development as well as the Ministry of Agriculture to explore opportunities for collaboration. Following the GES, opportunities for scaling up at the county level have also opened up with Machakos County Governor Hon. Alfred Mutua expressing interest in partnering with the innovator to help improve productivity and revenues of smallholders in the semi-arid county. Discussions are ongoing.
More stories on key GES lessons and outcomes are highlighted in the August 2015 Special GES Edition of "The Innovator" e-bulletin.
1 KIE-supported innovators and program nominees at the GES: Marion Moon (Wanda Organic), Karibu Nyaggah (Caytree Partners Limited), Linda Kwamboka and Jamila Abass (M-Farm Ltd), Pascal Kaumbutho (KENDAT), Peter Waga (Value Farms), Pius Sigei (Amtech Technologies), Tim Chesire (Indicus E.A Limited), Louise Labuschagne (Real IPM), Matthew Dida (Maseno University) and James Nguo (ALIN), Stefano Carcoforo (iProcure).
2 Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization is composed of semi-autonomous institutes established under the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Act of 2013.