From indigenous knowledge to artificial intelligence: Solutions to fight food insecurity from the Latin American and Caribbean innovation ecosystem

Click here for the Spanish version of this article.

By Linda Nyemba

Participants ideating at a past in-person WFP innovation bootcamp. Photo: WFP/Emanuel Feruzi.

The World Food Programme (WFP)’s innovation bootcamps focus on supporting bold solutions that address the Sustainable Development Goal of Zero Hunger (SDG 2) by 2030. However, our recent WFP Innovation Challenge focused on a priority area — the Latin America and Caribbean region. This region has faced some of the toughest challenges in 2020 including a migrant crisis, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and severe impacts on the food security and nutrition of millions of vulnerable people in South America.

The WFP Innovation Accelerator is delivering its 35th Innovation Bootcamp in partnership with the WFP Colombia Country Office based in Bogotá. This is part of WFP’s recent initiative to support regional innovation ecosystems and nurture local ideas to improve humanitarian response. This is based on the understanding that the people who are most affected by crises are best situated to inform the solutions to those problems. In addition, Colombia is well positioned geographically, economically, and technologically to galvanize innovation in the region.

Over the course of the bootcamp, 8 innovation teams will join on a virtual journey of ideation, project design, and innovation. Check out the teams and their ideas below:

1. Ancestral Markets

Due to globalization and various societal changes, ancestral knowledge for production and consumption of food in Colombia is becoming scarce, leading to losses in culture and biodiversity, in addition to food insecurity. Ancestral Markets’ project aim is to create a platform to systematically recover the available local and ancestral knowledge linked to food security and nutrition for indigenous and ethnic communities.

2. EatCloud

Food waste continues to be a rising humanitarian and environmental challenge. The EatCloud team is tackling the global issue by leveraging artificial intelligence. The digital platform they developed connects businesses in the vast food ecosystem — such as supermarkets, hotels and restaurants — with humanitarian organizations, food banks and foundations, to create a bridge to reduce food waste in a safe, data driven and impactful way.

3. LivingWaters Systems

From health to socioeconomic benefits, access to safe water is critical. LivingWaters Systems developed their solution to serve displaced individuals in refugee camps or rural settlements with limited resources facing water scarcity. Their product is a portable rainwater harvesting gutter unit that can be installed on fragile surfaces. The solution includes a basic screening filtration process to remove any detritus that may get caught in the supply and aims to reduce the time spent by families to collect scarce and unsanitary water alternatives.

4. Traceability for home-grown school meals

A solution being developed by WFP Guatemala teammates, the “Traceability for home-grown school meals” project wants to include local farmers in the established WFP school feeding programme. By empowering and training the farming community to join the schools’ food supply procurement processes, school meals programme could expand its nutritious offerings with locally produced food, while supporting the local economy.

5. Jetli Transfer

Jetli Transfer is an e-commerce platform that enables the Haitian diaspora to send groceries and other necessities to friends and family in Haiti. Given the high level of food insecurity in Haiti and the large financial contribution that Haitians abroad have on the GDP of the country, the Jetli Transfer product leverages technology to create an efficient and reliable economic assistance tool.

6. DignifAI

DignifAI operates at the Colombian-Venezuelan and Brazilian-Venezuelan borders, where many communities of vulnerable populations are located as a result of the Venezuelan migration and refugee crisis. The project’s aim is to introduce these communities (in addition to host communities and national citizens of Colombians) to an ecosystem of digital work and structure that can empower economic and social inclusion. By providing training in basic computer use, sourcing a consistent supply of artificial intelligence data-labelling projects, identifying work opportunities, and building soft skills, they aim to achieve personal growth and impact.

7. Context Insights

In food insecure areas, there is often a lack of reliable or consistent price data which limits the potential to forecast food prices. Price collection is often manual, expensive and point-in-time. The Context Insights team wants to tap into the “wisdom of the crowd” to collect forecasts of food prices from local consumers via SMS and social media. The idea is based upon providing financial incentives to users, to encourage them to provide accurate market knowledge, collect the data, and work with humanitarian organizations interested in gaining greater market understanding for service delivery.

8. Cocina con Causa

Peru has a growing population living with nutrition-related problems, such as obesity and anemia due to COVID-19 and other societal changes. The Cocina con Causa project wants to tackle this problem by focusing on providing the demographic with accurate information on nutrition and food safety best practices in an accessible and creative way. Since 2017, the team has been gathering data on the most effective channels to disseminate this nutrition related information whether it be via television, social media or radio.

Follow each project’s progress at the WFP Innovation Accelerator’s bootcamp from 17 to 21 May 2021, on Twitter @WFPInnovation.

The WFP Innovation Accelerator sources, supports and scales high-potential solutions to end hunger worldwide. We provide WFP staff, entrepreneurs, start-ups, companies and non-governmental organizations with access to funding, mentorship, hands-on support and WFP operations.

Find out more about us: innovation.wfp.org. Subscribe to our e-newsletter. Follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn and watch our videos on YouTube.

Sourcing, supporting and scaling high-impact innovations to disrupt hunger.