Engineering a sustainable future: empowering communities for a hunger-free world

WFP Innovation Accelerator
5 min readMar 4, 2024

Discover three untold stories of innovation by WFP Engineers, who use cutting-edge sustainable technology and innovation to keep hunger at bay.

By: Carmen Lumbreras de Santiago and Anthony Priolo

Executing humanitarian assistance at a global scale is much more than delivering food — it involves building a complex system of supply chains and infrastructure that can deliver support where it’s needed most as soon as a crisis hits. For World Engineering Day, we are shining a spotlight on WFP Engineers, who not only bolster life-saving relief efforts but also empower communities with lasting infrastructure and sustainable solutions, redefining the frontline of humanitarian aid. At the WFP Innovation Accelerator, we work with teams across WFP, including WFP Engineers, to bring innovative solutions to the most vulnerable communities.

Kitchen in a Box | An innovative solution benefitting over 3,000 children in El Salvador

Watch as a storage container is turned into a sustainable kitchen for school children in El Salvador. Video: WFP

In El Salvador, many schools lack proper kitchen and storage facilities and firewood is traditionally used for cooking, which poses significant health risks on children and cooks. To respond to this challenge, the Government of El Salvador has set as a national priority to enhance school kitchen conditions.

To support this initiative, WFP El Salvador and the WFP Innovation Accelerator launched “Kitchen in a Box” (KIAB), a groundbreaking initiative that repurposes shipping containers into smart kitchens. Thanks to the technical support of WFP Engineers, the kitchens are equipped with solar panels, induction stoves and electric pressure cookers.

Shipping container before the transformation into a kitchen. Photo: WFP/Gabriela Moreno

These sustainable engineering elements have had a great impact on the success of the KIAB pilot, including:

  • Environmental benefits: by harnessing solar energy and utilizing energy-efficient appliances, KIAB reduces the kitchen’s carbon footprint, mitigates air pollution, and contributes to climate change adaptation and mitigation in El Salvador’s arid dry corridor.
  • Healthier meals: students receive safe and nutritious meals, while the cooks benefit from improved working conditions thanks to induction stoves, which replace traditional firewood.
  • Locally produced food and ingredients: a rainwater collection system and a school garden with drip irrigation simplifies costs, facilitates access to food and promotes local production.
Salvadorian students benefiting from school meals provided by Kitchen in a Box. Photo: WFP/Gabriela Moreno

What’s next? KIAB aims to expand to more than 700 schools, benefiting over 500,000 children annually. Its adaptable design allows for easy transportation and installation, making it a cost-effective and sustainable solution for the country’s school feeding programme.

Nourishing the future | Solar energy brings nutritious meals for Nepali children

See the process of improving child nutrition through engineering in Nepal. Video: WFP

WFP is working on several initiatives to improve child nutrition and education in collaboration with the Government of Nepal, where WFP’s Engineering team has launched a green cooking pilot to introduce renewable energy systems and efficient cooking methods in schools.

WFP Engineers have implemented the following solutions in Nepal:

  • Solar energy system: the renewable energy system provides a minimum daily power of 3.5 hours which enables the preparation of 35 kg of food, enough to feed 100 children. The surplus is then used to power the schools’ electric devices and for irrigation.
  • Improved school meals preparation: WFP Engineers replaced traditional wood-burning stoves with modern induction stoves, an energy efficient solution that does not emit harmful smoke and reduces reliance on firewood.
1. Children receiving school meals in Nuwakot. Photo: WFP/Monica Upadhyay 2. Solar panels installed in one of the schools as part of the pilot project. Photo: WFP/Biplob Rakhal

What’s next? This transformative initiative aims to expand and provide clean energy solutions for school feeding in 1,000 schools in Nepal, paving the way for a more sustainable future where education, nutrition and clean energy go hand in hand.

From waste to water | How WFP is restoring the irrigation system in Syria

A farmer stands in his field in Adra. Video: WFP

In the heart of the Rural Damascus Governorate lies the Adra Water Treatment Plant. Built in 1984, this vital facility was designed to transform waste and blackwater into a precious resource for irrigation. However, electrical and mechanical faults have affected the plant and disrupted its flow, endangering the environment and posing health risks to the local population.

To protect and restore the local irrigation system, WFP Engineers intervened in the Adra’s Water Plant in support of the activities led by WFP’s Livelihoods team. Its treatment capacity was enhanced to 170,000 m3/day by:

  • Rehabilitation: WFP Engineers rehabilitated 11.2 km of irrigation sub-canals thatserve 3,020 hectares of land, as well as improved the intake water filter and refineries in the main water treatment plant.
  • Power connection: WFP Engineers built 8.1 km of cables and towers to connect the Al Rehanneh lifting station to the power station in Adra city.
Before and after pictures of the water treatment plant. Photo: WFP/Hussam Alsaleh

What’s next? WFP Engineers in Syria continue to support water treatment activities and irrigation throughout as part of the livelihoods activities that WFP is carrying out in the country, paving the way for a greener future.

Raising the bar | WFP Engineers now and in the future

As we celebrate World Engineering Day, we are grateful for the 200 WFP Engineers around the world improving WFP operations and building sustainable, long-lasting solutions. Their work highlights how innovation can take many forms but must respond to community needs to reach significant impact.

Let us be inspired to continue pushing the boundaries of what is possible, striving for innovation, collaboration and creativity in our pursuit of a more resilient and sustainable future. Together, we can engineer a world where every child thrives, where communities are empowered and where our planet flourishes.

Learn more about WFP Engineering.

Join our LinkedIn Live on engineering for the future.

Carmen Lumbreras de Santiago is communications officer, WFP Management Services Engineering Branch. Anthony Priolo is communications lead, WFP Management Services Engineering Branch.

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

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WFP Innovation Accelerator

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