Innovating for Women: Gender equality and food security

WFP Innovation Accelerator
4 min readMar 17, 2021

Innovations addressing gender inequality while targeting food security are our best chance to achieve Zero Hunger

By Vida Gabe

The world has a gender problem, and that also applies to the 690 million people facing food insecurity in the world right now; 60 percent are women and girls. In 10 out of 17 countries women are more likely than men to experience food insecurity. This means that if we want to achieve a world with Zero Hunger, we also need to achieve gender equality and we have to involve women in the process.

“A world with Zero Hunger can be achieved only when everyone has equal opportunities, equal access to resources, and equal voice in the decisions that shape their households, communities and societies.” — WFP Gender Policy, 2015–2020

Women comprise more than half of all hungry people around the world and they are an integral part of our food systems. In rural areas of developing countries, 60 percent of women in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa work in agriculture. Yet, compared to men, women have less access to the primary resources and services needed for food production such as land, finance, training, inputs and equipment.

This is where innovation can make an impact. Innovation projects that provide women support and involve them in decision-making move us closer to a world without hunger simply because they’re aimed at reaching the most vulnerable population — and the people with the greatest potential to make a difference.

In honour of International Women’s Month, we’re highlighting not only the women who are leading change in WFP operations, we’re also featuring some of the WFP Innovation Accelerator-supported projects that are pulling double duty. From Asia and Africa, to the Middle East and South America, these innovation projects are addressing food security while helping to bridge the gender gap.

CBT Cashback in Bangladesh

CBT CashBack (Bangladesh)

CBT CashBack offers pregnant women and mothers the chance to purchase nutritious food from partner shops using a mobile app. The programme is conducted in partnership with local social protection organizations in Dhaka and encourages healthy food consumption by rewarding users who spend money on ingredients from all the five food groups with cash-back reimbursements equivalent to 25 percent of the money that they spend. Tracking user spending habits through the app’s cloud-based data records provides the ability to adjust and personalize messages to encourage positive behaviour.

Eco-Friendly Cold Storage in Kenya

Eco-Friendly Cold Storage (Kenya)

Led by a Kenyan university professor, her team, and the WFP Kenya Country Office, Eco-Friendly Cold Storage tests innovative approaches to enable women retailers to use affordable, off-grid cold storage technology. The solution is expected to increase the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables in and beyond the refugee settings in remote markets. It’s also aiming to reduce post-harvest losses and generate income for women retailers.

Last Mile Ecosystem in Tunisia

Last Mile Ecosystem (Tunisia)

Seventy-three million schoolchildren in 60 low-income countries go to school hungry while 400 to 550 million smallholder farmers have unequal access to sustainable markets and transportation. Last Mile Ecosystem offers a solution to both these problems with a digital tool that connects female smallholder farmers, central kitchens, and drivers in a digital community ecosystem; all of which are positioned to improve the diets of school-aged children.

Producers Direct in Peru

Producers Direct (Peru)

Producers Direct is a blockchain tool that creates digital farming co-ops, specifically for female smallholder farmers and youth who have limited access to job opportunities in food value chains. The project is training participants in topics such as cooperatives and access to markets, and creating a system to aggregate the farmers’ produce and connect the farmers to markets. It is expected to strengthen access to markets for the long term, thus increasing financial independence, food security and incomes.

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.