Introduction: Persistent food insecurity in Africa partly stems from the limited capacity in most of the African countries to invest in existing and homegrown agricultural innovations with the potential to positively impact on household income, food security, and livelihoods. Many of such innovations which are nascent face challenges of poor infrastructure, limited legal support systems, insufficient human and financial capital. Regarding financial capital, the innovations are often times looking for funds to buy down risk and allow the innovators test their innovations and then scale them to greater market access and sustainability. Of these, the private sector driven agricultural innovations stand a good chance of impacting positively on food security, nutrition and poverty alleviation due to their inherent demand-driven focus which ensures sustainability. Methods: Between 2013 and 2015, Feed the Future Kenya Innovation Engine (KIE) a USAID funded program competitively solicited for private sector driven agricultural innovations from within Kenya, with a potential to positively impact on food security, nutrition and poverty and received 679 application over four separate
calls for applications. After a rigorous review process of the applications, 20 innovations qualified for grant support. The selected innovations were awarded grants (which included cash support and short-term technical assistance) to implement for a period of 12–24 months, with possibility of follow on funding contingent to proof of capability to scale the businesses. Results and Discussion: This paper examines opportunities, and challenges of these private sector driven agricultural innovations, targeting improved food security and nutrition and poverty alleviation which if addressed will ensure successful growth of innovations to scale.
Key words: Food security, innovations, livelihoods, nutrition, poverty, private sector, sustainability