From climate smart solutions to improving emergency response: Eight innovations to tackle food security
By Vida Gabe
An estimated 811 million people in the world today go hungry because of conflict, climate crises and poverty. Against this backdrop, the World Food Programme Innovation Accelerator aims to seek new solutions and scale promising innovations to disrupt hunger.
In 2021, WFP challenged colleagues around the world to submit ideas for rethinking our food systems. We called for disruptive innovations in the fight against hunger in areas such as resilience to shocks and stress, access to safe and nutritious food, and advancing equitable livelihoods for all. After a competitive selection process, eight teams have been selected to participate in the WFP Innovation Accelerator’s 40th Innovation Bootcamp from 7 to 11 February 2022. This year’s teams will be dialing in to the virtual Bootcamp from five continents around the world. Their projects are aimed at supporting communities in countries such as Bangladesh, Nepal, Kenya and Mali, just to name a few.
On 18 February, the teams will also get the chance to pitch their ideas during the WFP Pitch Event, an official side-event of the 2022 Munich Security Conference. This year’s edition of the WFP Pitch Event will centre on the theme of “Enabling Innovation for Food Security and Peace.” This focus will showcase how innovation can help to build bridges between food security, stability and sustainable development. To learn more about the participating teams, check out their approaches to tackling hunger below:
In Colombia, more than 25 million people are food insecure, while only 17 percent of the population recycles an estimated 12 million tonnes of usable waste. Bancalimentos is a social business supporting people living in poverty to exchange solid waste products — paper, glass, cardboard, plastic, and clothing — for food credit and insurance.
Over a third of global soils are degraded to the point of hampering global food production, water distribution, carbon storage and significantly impacting the livelihood of farmers. Boomitra measures soil moisture, nutrients, and carbon with satellites and artificial intelligence, helping farmers reduce water and nutrient use by 30 percent while enhancing soil fertility. The project also couples these insights with carbon credit payment schemes, empowering farmers around the world with the knowledge and financial tools to adopt regenerative land management practices.
DARTS, which stands for “Data Assurance and Reconciliation Tool Simplified”, is an easy to use and fast self service web application developed by the Data Assurance team in WFP that enables rapid anomaly and reconciliation checks of cash based transfers data, to help ensure that the right cash-based assistance goes to the intended people. This flexible and modular web application can be used online and offline and supports WFP country offices especially in emergency context in conquering fragmented and complex data landscapes.
Food demand is expected to rise 45 percent by 2050. In order to close this gap, agricultural production will need to increase by 100 percent in developing countries. ignitia uses a reliable and accessible SMS forecast and Weather Intelligence Platform to provide smallholder farmers in the tropics with accurate, actionable and affordable weather forecasts that will help them improve agricultural yield.
In order to prepare for future large humanitarian emergencies that require immediate infrastructure damage assessment, ImpactAI will create context-specific, high-quality training datasets for artificial intelligence use in global humanitarian and emergency responses. ImpactAI will engage local communities (through EMPACT) to make sure the individuals generating the artificial intelligence training data comes from the locality (or region) where these disasters occured.
6. Timely Logistics
When roads become inaccessible during disasters, life-saving aid cannot reach those most in need. RA2CE calculates the impact of disasters in near real-time through an analysis of disruptions to the transportation network and the impact for society to reach key points of interest (see a test case). This results in the identification of accessible locations and key-areas of highest need, enabling WFP to respond faster, secure food distributions, and save lives.
7. Seawater Solutions
A third of the world’s land is threatened by salinisation, representing one of the biggest problems farmers face in coastal areas. Seawater Solutions leverages integrated saltwater wetland farming systems to produce food without access to freshwater, while building ecosystems for climate adaptation.
8. Toothpick Project
Using a live active inoculum from a fungal-coated toothpick, Toothpick Project arms smallholder farmers with bio-herbicide technology to help them kill striga, an increasingly destructive parasitic weed that attacks the roots of staple crops in sub-Saharan Africa.
Follow each project’s progress at the WFP Innovation Accelerator’s bootcamp from 7 to 11 February 2022, 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.