2022 — Innovating to help solve the global food crisis, the climate crisis and other global problems

WFP Innovation Accelerator
6 min readDec 20, 2022

In 2022, the world faced one of the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II. The emergence of a global food crisis, with 345 million people now marching towards starvation. This was exacerbated by conflict, the climate crisis, COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine, further increasing the cost of food and fuel. The need for innovative solutions has never been more important than right now.

The innovators and startups who work with our WFP Innovation Accelerator team, global WFP colleagues, partners and supporters again pioneered new solutions to help improve the lives of some of the most vulnerable people across the globe — whether they suffer from hunger, the effects of the climate crisis or other global problems.

Supporting Innovation Projects to Achieve Zero Hunger

In 2022, as part of SDG2 Acceleration, we provided funding and support to innovative startups and teams who can advance global food security and Sustainable Development Goals. In November 2022, we ran a bootcamp for seven teams that were selected to participate in the Innovation Bootcamp, following their application to the WFP Innovation Challenge 2022 for Climate Action.

In the photo, smallholder farmer Mukakarisa Blandine, a maize farmer and a SheCan initiative participant in Rwanda. June, 2022. Photo: WFP/Irihose Mugiraneza Benjamin.

We supported projects that support women. SheCan, a digital blended finance platform that enables donors and lenders to support existing financial inclusion programmes for women, launched operations in Zambia, Rwanda and Peru, with the support of the Accelerator and WFP Innovative Finance teams. Science for Society (S4S), a technology company that transforms landless women farmers into micro-entrepreneurs, reached 125,000 people in India by building climate-clean food processing units with solar technology, with the support of our Scale-up Enablement team.

We are delighted to see that Martin, a recipient of a 20kW solar panel from the Renewable Energy for Microenterprises in Armenia project, was able to transform his water bottling machinery to run on solar power, which enabled him to save Armenian Dollars 1.5 million (approximately USD 3,500) and invest in his business.

Innovation Across the Sustainable Development Goals

Recognizing that Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) inherently interlink with one another, we know that Zero Hunger can not be achieved without a global partnership that fosters innovation to achieve the 2030 goals. Under SDGx Acceleration, we have carried out nine programmes which supported 58 innovations, working towards SDG 3, 5, 6, 7, and 16, to implement projects in 29 countries and territories. This includes 16 ventures in programmes we ran end to end, of which three were funded for a SDGx Acceleration Sprint Programme and received WFP funding. The additional 19 ventures, 21 UN intrapreneurial teams, and two special innovation projects were funded and/or supported in collaboration with our partners. One of the partner-programmes we launched in 2022 was the first edition of the Kofi Annan Award for Innovation in Africa for good health and well-being, alongside the Austrian Federal Chancellery and the Austrian Development Agency (ADA).

Engaging the Ecosystem

The WFP Innovation Accelerator showcased disruptive solutions for climate action at COP27. In the photo, Ms. Saliha Dobardzic, Senior Climate Change Specialist at Adaptation Fund; Mr. Tamer Taha, Advisor to Egypt’s Minister of International Cooperation on Innovation, Digitalization and Entrepreneurship; Dr. Manon Sarah Littek, Founding Partner of the Green Generation Fund; Bernhard Kowatsch, Head of World Food Programme Innovation Accelerator. November, 2022. Photo: WFP/Kristen Arnold.

We started the year with our first in person bootcamp in two years, as an official side-event at the margins of the 2022 Munich Security Conference and ended the year at COP 27, where we hosted, “Disrupt Hunger | Innovating for People and Planet” event to highlight the opportunity to progress towards climate-resilience and showcased real-world examples of scalable innovations, such as H2Grow, PHL Venture, Takachar and R4 Rural Resilience Initiative from the forefront of climate and hunger. This year a Partnerships Framework was signed between WFP and United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF). Leveraging the nature of this agreement, the Accelerator, WFP Innovative Finance teams and UNCDF have been co-designing WFP Bridge, a catalytic funding facility bridging the funding gap for early-stage innovations contributing to WFP’s mission in developing economies.

We are proud that the Accelerator was invited, as the first UN organisation, to join Google for Startups, a world leading program to support thriving, diverse, and inclusive startup communities.

In the photo, Bernhard Kowatsch during TED@BCG. “Innovation and technology can create so much good in the world, and together we can solve the world’s biggest challenges.” Bernhard Kowatsch.

During the food crisis, the Head of the WFP Innovation Accelerator Bernhard Kowatsch’s Ted Talk on How Innovation can Fight Global Hunger went online to spread hope, with more than 1.5 million views to date.

A Glimpse into our Learnings

As an impact driven team, we believe in sharing knowledge as much as we can with the wider community to transform the way we collectively serve vulnerable communities across the world. Here are a few insights to our learnings from 2022, that we will share in more detail in our Year in Review to be shared in 2023.

Common challenges — Innovation teams across the portfolios have common challenges when it comes to scale.To address these challenges,we analyzed these needs and developed a Sprint expert series, covering topics such as impact measurement and community ownership.

In frontier innovations such as blockchain — We assessed evidence-based papers that provided tangible and quantifiable proof that additional blockchain use cases can be successful in challenging environments where WFP operates and, after that, scaled. The collected evidence could initially be gathered through small-scale pilots conducted in controlled environments or sandboxes.

Mentoring — through several discussions with mentors, we learned that we can improve our matching and briefing processes by collecting clearer needs and problem statements from the venture teams in advance and that mentors want to receive follow ups from their teams and attend pitch events.

In the photo, the People team from the Accelerator running a retrospective session to surface and share learning within the team. Photo: WFP/Sanjna Sudan.

Building Networks for Innovation

This year we continued to build a network of diverse partners and collaborators. The impact we’ve been able to achieve this year, and the growth we’ve experienced in the last seven years, has only been possible because of our WFP colleagues, donors, friends, and supporters who believed in us.

In the photo, Susanne Fries-Gaier, Humanitarian Director at the German Federal Foreign Office (GFFO); Jose Shehata, Innovation Ventures Consultant at WFP Innovation Accelerator; and, Edith Heines, Representative and Country Director of WFP Rwanda, during the WFP Innovation Pitch Event. November, 2022. Photo: WFP/Sanjna Sudan.

Germany’s development ministry, foreign office, and Bavaria were the first funders and partners of the Accelerator when it was established and have since supported our work with yearly contributions. We were delighted to welcome Innovation Norway, France, and Czechia to our portfolio of innovative government partners. USAID further supported our work, adding a focus on innovative financing. We are excited to deepen our relationships with Austria, Luxembourg, and the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) who all joined up to our SDGx programming this year. We renewed and deepened our partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, focusing on innovation in large-scale food fortification, and we were delighted to continue our work with John Deere Foundation supporting smallholder farmers.



WFP Innovation Accelerator

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