Case Study

Prolinnova: Local Innovation Support Funds (LISFs) in Kenya




Project Overview

Implementing Team

Local Steering Committees (LSCs) - one per site in Kenya
Kenyan National Steering Committee (NSC) 
Volunteer Liaison between NSC and LSCs
Local Farmer Innovators 


Grant recipient Prolinnova (Promoting Local Innovation) - hosted by ETC Foundation - NGO-led network of more than 150 implementing organizations
Funding by The Rockefeller Foundation


Termed ‘Participatory Innovation Development’ (PID), the approach taken by Prolinnova aims to achieve sustainable agricultural through a farmer-led  innovation process that grows out of ways in which rural people are already trying to improve their livelihood systems.

In 2004, Prolinnova developed a pilot project called Farmer Access to Innovation Resources (FAIR), in which farmers are provided with small grants out of so-called Local Innovation Support Funds (LISFs). 

From 2008 - 2011, Prolinnova received USD $1.3 million in grant funding from The Rockefeller Foundation to improve and expand the LISFs in five countries and to start up and establish them in three new countries,  including Kenya. 

Methods in Action



A localized approach to implementation

In Kenya, LISFs are implemented collaboratively between a National-level and a Local-level Steering Committee, consisting of farmers representing various community-based organizations. When launching a new round of the LISF, the Local Steering Committee (LSC) works with barazas (community meetings) to talk about the LISF. They also advertise through the local Ministry of Agriculture office. The LSC receives the applications from farmers for initial screening after conducting site visits to determine whether the innovations proposed are sustainable, and after screening they forward it to National Steering Committee (NSC) for the final selection.
Identifying innovators for direct grants  

Criteria for selection include: an innovation that has already begun; the farmer’s capacity to persuade the team how innovative his/ her idea is; usefulness; ability to generate an income; degree of sustainability; and possibility for sales beyond the local market. Once identified, the NSC disburses funds directly to the winning innovators in two installments, with 10% of the full award amount saved to enable the LSC to more effectively monitor grant implementation.


Value-added in the lives of innovators

In the period 2009-2011 the Kenya LISFs provided 37 grants to farmers (out of 125 total proposals received), averaging in size of 25,000 KES ($280). Of the 37 farmer grantees, 30% are women. 

The immediate effect of the grants was that many innovators were able to build products to meet their intended needs. Product types varied; some of them were practices that have evolved through the years, and some constituted regained indigenous knowledge. The value these products added to the lives of innovators included lower expenditure on fertilizers and pesticides due to soil fertility innovations; improvement in crop shelf life resulting from crop preservation and pest control innovations; and improved family health due to decreased dependency on toxic products and increased use of organic fertilizer innovations.

Next steps: from creator to entrepreneur

Beyond the production out of their ideas, some farmers were able to market their innovations and earn additional income for their households. A select group of farmers earned additional income from selling their products. One farmer innovator even gained recognition at a national workshop for his beehive innovation.                    

Ongoing evolution of the LISFs funding mechanism

Advances made in the various LISF pilots are significant: the number of grants made has increased steadily, the diversity of topics farmers are tackling with the support of LISF is widening, farmer governance of the LISF is increasing and, in some cases, progress is being made toward institutionalizing the LISF.