From innovative finance to nutrition, eight innovation teams will be challenged to tackle world hunger and advance gender equality

WFP Innovation Accelerator
5 min readMar 15, 2021

By Linda Nyemba

Past participant at an in-person WFP innovation bootcamp in Munich. Photo: WFP/Paul Guenther

Unintentionally, but providing a programme twist, the WFP Innovation Accelerator is hosting its 34th bootcamp in March, a month dedicated to women. Selected from the WFP Innovation Challenge 2020, eight teams will join on a virtual journey of ideation, and project design and be given insight into how to design with a gender equality lens.

In addition to sourcing solutions that address the Sustainable Development Goal of Zero Hunger (SDG 2), this WFP Innovation Challenge priority area was expanded to include startups that tackle solutions that are relevant in the current COVID-19 context as well as enabling poor and vulnerable populations to sustainably change their lives. The solutions that have been chosen range from high to low tech innovations and span a number of areas of interest : innovative finance, nutrition, school feeding, energy for food security, livelihood creation, data mapping, and solutions for smallholder farmers.

The teams will be dialing in from Bangladesh, India, Kenya, Lesotho, Mozambique, the Republic of Congo and the USA. Check out the teams and their ideas below:

1. Cookups

Cookups is a homemade food online marketplace that connects diners with unemployed women in Bangladesh who are home cooks or are interested in cooking. The Cookups team believes that food can be an empowering tool to bring financial stability to the women who otherwise, due to societal barriers, have challenges entering the workforce.

2. CLabs Digital Microwork

Leveraging Celo, an open blockchain platform, the CLabs Digital Microwork is a project aiming to provide underserved youth in the microwork industry a secure way to receive payment. Within this target group, many do not have bank accounts, computers or the means to pay for large transaction fees. Needing only their smartphone, users will be able to access their funds.

3. EPC4S Lesotho

EPC4S Lesotho is an electric pressure cooker designed for school feeding programmes such as those run by the WFP Country Office in Lesotho. Currently, the schools are cooking with wood fuel, which has negative impacts on the health, environment and productivity of the community. The EPC4S technology aims to provide cleaner, faster, cheaper and more convenient cooking for the schools.

4. Mbala Pinda

A team of WFP Republic of Congo staff is working on a project focused on the local delicacy, Mbala Pinda, which is composed of cassava and peanuts. Aside from being nutritious, the snack bar could potentially tackle some of the preexisting systemic problems in the country and those resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. The mission is to empower women to establish Mbala Pinda processor groups to generate income all while combating malnutrition for children.

5. Arable

Smallholder farmers in Mozambique experience heightened vulnerability to climate shocks, furthering food insecurity and lack of access to agricultural micro-financing. Arable’s solution is an on-site climate monitor that will provide high-fidelity information on precipitation, temperature and vegetation indices to supplement remotely sensed data. This will enable R4 resilience — which includes improvements to index insurance and access to micro-financing services — and last-mile climate services via local agricultural extension services.

6. UN Pay

Cash-Based-Transfer (CBT) interventions are on the rise, accounting for over 38 percent of WFP’s portfolio. The need for rapid set-up of CBT as a contactless solution for emergency response such as in the COVID-19 pandemic is urgent. UN Pay aims to create a global digital payment platform that enables beneficiaries of humanitarian and social actors to quickly receive funds through a “one-stop shop” in which they can choose the payment instrument of their preference with full access to the financial means.

7. Community Inclusion Currency

Growing stagnate debts and markets prevent local sustainability and cooperative action. There is often no sustainable way for community groups to finance community projects. Sarafu is a Community Inclusion Currency system in Kenya that demonstrates the ability to create and circulate local credit systems (separate from national currency) as a form of community-driven basic income. Communities tap into a free national service supported by humanitarian organizations to access Sarafu and build their local markets.

8. Takachar

Most farmers burn their crop residues (biomass) after harvest because these residues are loose, wet, bulky, and too expensive to collect and transport to a centralized place for conversion into useful products. This not only impacts the environment but is an economic loss. Takachar is developing a small-scale, low-cost, portable system that can latch onto the back of tractors and deploy to farms to locally upgrade the crop residues on-site into valuable bioproducts for sale to the market.

Follow each project’s progress at the WFP Innovation Accelerator’s bootcamp from 15 to 19 March 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.

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WFP Innovation Accelerator

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