WFP’s Climate x Hunger Pitch Slam @ Greentech Festival, 2023
By Heath Morrell
The Climate Emergency is a Hunger Emergency
The global community is experiencing a food crisis of unprecedented proportions; one driving millions to the brink of starvation. As the World Food Programme (WFP) marks its 60th anniversary this year, there are an estimated 345 million people currently facing acute food insecurity, across 79 countries. Shockingly, up to 828 million people still do not know where their next meal is coming from (2022 State of Food Insecurity (SOFI) report).
The ongoing climate emergency is a key driver of the food crisis, contributing to deeper vulnerabilities and threatening our ability to live in a world without hunger. As a result of global heating, climate-related shocks such as drought, storms, and floods are increasing in number and frequency. These can destroy lives, crops and livelihoods, and damage food systems, impairing people’s ability to feed themselves. In developing countries, the number of extreme weather events has more than doubled since the early 1990s.
Along with the climate crisis, ongoing conflicts, the ripple effects of COVID-19, and increasing costs of food, fuel and fertilizers are contributing to this global food crisis. As the impacts of these four key drivers increase in scale and frequency, they will deepen vulnerabilities and undermine many governments’ ability to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 2: Zero Hunger (SDG2). Without changes, and the implementation of new, innovative solutions, catastrophic levels of global hunger will persist.
Innovating for a World in Crisis
New solutions targeting the climate crisis and subsequent impacts on global hunger are essential. Within WFP, ongoing innovation is supporting the world’s most vulnerable communities, delivering greater impact, faster, at scale, with lower costs.
As well as saving lives following climate-related disasters and assisting people in the most remote and challenging locations to cope with climate shocks, WFP is supporting communities to:
- Anticipate climate hazards before they turn into disasters, by using early-warning systems to trigger pre-positioned financing for preventative action;
- Restore degraded ecosystems that serve as natural shields against climate impacts;
- Protect the most vulnerable with safety nets and insurance against climate extremes;
- Energize schools and communities through access to sustainable energy.
To mitigate the effects of the climate crisis, and to end hunger by 2030, WFP is therefore focused on innovations that meet people’s immediate food needs, while supporting programmes targeting climate adaptation, long-term resilience building and transformation of global food systems.
Since 2015, the United Nations WFP Innovation Accelerator has been sourcing, supporting and scaling high-impact innovations and adaptation solutions to assist people in the most vulnerable and fragile contexts. The Accelerator enables innovators — both internal WFP solutions and external startups — to develop, improve and scale their solutions.
Climate Innovation in Action
Climate-focused innovations supported by the WFP Innovation Accelerator are already disrupting hunger and addressing the climate emergency. At Greentech Festival in Berlin this coming June, innovators from the Accelerator’s climate-focused portfolio will be participating as part of this global platform that aims to empower changemakers and foster innovative green technologies for a sustainable future.
Within Greentech Festival’s Conference programme, WFP will present the ‘UN World Food Programme’s Climate X Hunger Pitch Slam: Innovating for a World in Crisis.’ This session will provide four innovators with a platform to showcase their innovative climate- and food-focused solutions in front of an expert panel and festival attendees. Below is a short overview of the participating teams that you can see pitch live at Greentech Festival on 15 June 2023.
A decentralized insurance protocol to collectively build insurance products.
Smallholder farmers, pastoralists, small- and micro-entrepreneurs across the world are highly vulnerable to climate-related risks, such as droughts, floods and storms. They also have very limited access to risk financing tools and services that can provide protection from the resulting financial losses.
Climate risk insurance enables vulnerable people to cope better with climate shocks. It can support smallholder farmers to absorb the effects of failed harvests, and help pastoralists to maintain the provision of food and veterinary care for their livestock. However, for end-users, climate risk insurance can be expensive, slow, complex and opaque. For example, accessing and using climate microinsurance can be inefficient and unaffordable, and there is often little trust in traditional insurers due to histories of delayed or absent payouts.
Etherisc provides common infrastructure, product templates and insurance license-as-a-service as part of a platform that allows anyone to create their own insurance products. Ultimately, the goal is to provide solutions that make climate microinsurance faster, more transparent and more affordable.
Climate risk insurance provided by Etherisc allows vulnerable farmers to use mobile money to purchase their policies and receive insurance payouts. Additionally, farmers automatically receive payouts if a predefined climate event occurs — such as a certain amount of rainfall. The particular climate event is verified through a smart contract with publicly available data, for example via satellite imagery.
Etherisc’s smart contract platform on the blockchain lowers transaction costs and makes payouts faster and more transparent. It also enables transactions in cryptocurrencies (stablecoin) and therefore opens up alternative sources of risk capital.
To date, 27,000 policies have been processed on the Etherisc platform. In the initial pilot, there was an 80 percent reduction in transaction costs, while the insurance payout time was reduced from an average of 45 days to one-five days.
In 2021, Etherisc successfully onboarded 25,000 farmers in Kenya to the platform. Etherisc is soon to be active in Burkina Faso where the agriculture sector employs around 80 percent of the workforce and over 3.5 million people (approximately 20 percent of the population) remain food insecure.
Provides smallholder farmers in the tropics with accurate, actionable and affordable weather forecasts to improve yield.
The ongoing climate crisis poses a significant threat to food security and the livelihoods of communities in sub-Saharan Africa, where smallholder farmers produce the majority of the food. Given that more than 96 percent of cultivated land in sub-Saharan Africa is rain-fed, altered rainfall patterns due to climate change are of significant concern. In fact, yields of small-holder farmers have an estimated 20–80 percent variance caused by weather fluctuations from one year to the next. Reliable weather information is therefore crucial for delivering optimal yields, enhancing climate resilience, and reducing the costs and risks associated with farming.
As farmers’ livelihoods largely depend on increasingly uncertain weather conditions, Ignitia aims to assist them by delivering hyper-local forecasts through an advanced physics and artificial intelligence predictive model optimized for the tropics. This specialised model is twice as accurate as global models, and provides more reliable weather information and climate-smart agricultural advice that is both location- and crop-specific.
In partnership with local communities, Ignitia has developed simple, text-based 48-hour weather forecast messages that even illiterate farmers can understand by recognizing keywords. Messages are always less than 60 characters and formatted identically each day.
This combination of enhanced services and information enables farmers to sustainably grow and improve yields and income, whilst practising climate adaptive measures and promoting regenerative agriculture. When taken together, improvement in all factors aims to contribute to the overall quality of farmers’ livelihoods.
Ignitia is operational in Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo. To date, services have been provided to 2.6 million smallholder farmers, of which 700,000 are recurrent clients paying at least once per month. Routine access to Ignitia services has shown to have the potential to generate a 20 percent increase in income of farmers.
Together with WFP, the Ignitia team is currently exploring additional use cases to test the operational business model.
Solar 4 Resilience (S4R)
Solar-based technologies for building resilience and livelihoods of female smallholder farmers in India.
Lack of access to energy prevents many smallholder farmers from preserving and processing food post-harvest, which can cause up to 40 percent of the produce to be lost at the farm level. Furthermore, gender inequality, lack of land ownership, and job instability can keep women and their families in poverty. While technology solutions exist locally, the ecosystem is fragmented and incentives are not sufficient enough to create sustainable markets.
The Solar 4 Resilience solution assists female rural micro-entrepreneurs by providing them with an effective combination of technology, affordable finance, training on quality assurance and money matters, and access to new markets.
The use of solar-powered technology presents a climate-friendly solution that allows women to dry perishable food that would otherwise be thrown away, reducing post-harvest losses. Low-interest loans are also negotiated with local banks to allow the purchase of these innovative solar dryers, which are developed by the private company S4S Technologies. When made accessible to end-users, solar-powered dryers can help individuals become micro-entrepreneurs in their own right, creating new opportunities to access local markets where processed food can be sold.
The Solar 4 Resilience solution has engaged 1,200 women, enabling a network of 60,000 farmers to receive access to markets. To date, 300,000 people in total have earned up to USD 12 million of extra income generated by female micro-entrepreneurs. These entrepreneurs also made approximately USD 1,200 each in additional revenue per year while processing 60,000 tons of food for over 1,400 institutional customers. The use of solar energy has also reduced carbon dioxide emissions.
The first phase of the Solar 4 Resilience project started in Odisha, India, with plans to scale in the region in line with government policies.
Turns farmers’ crop residues into higher value bioproducts, increasing income and reducing environmental damage.
The generation of harmful air pollution from waste burning is commonplace and causes negative environmental impacts. For example, millions of smallholder farmers in India are faced with the difficulty of removing crop residues from their farms after every harvest. Many therefore opt to burn waste to reduce expenses that would be incurred for the collection and transportation to areas where these residues could be turned into useful biofuels and bioproducts.
Takachar’s solution brings small-scale, portable processing units directly to sites where farmers can locally transform their residues into valuable bioproducts such as fuels, fertilizers and activated carbon precursors at the farmgate.
Results have shown that Takachar’s solution allows farmers to increase their income by up to 40 percent, while reducing damaging air pollution produced during the burning of waste. A commercial-scale unit is currently under development.
Takachar’s innovative idea has been recognised with multiple high-level accolades. In 2021, at COP26 in Glasgow, Takachar was recognised as a winner of the inaugural Earthshot Prize, founded by the Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. In April 2022, Takachar was awarded USD 1 million in the Elon Musk Foundation’s XPrize Carbon Removal Competition, which supports innovative solutions fighting climate change. Later, in October 2022, Takachar’s founders joined the second cohort of ‘BE Fellows’, the signature program of Bill Gates’ climate organisation Breakthrough Energy, which supports the development of cutting-edge climate technologies.
In spite of the immense challenges of the climate and food crises, WFP remains committed to saving lives and changing lives, while working towards achieving the global community’s promise to end hunger and malnutrition by 2030. Learn more about WFP and these four innovative startups at WFP’s Climate x Hunger Pitch Slam at Greentech Festival 2023.
World Food Programme at Greentech Festival — Event Details.
The Greentech Festival Conference programme includes keynotes, panel discussions, bootcamps and deepdive sessions, enabling the exchange of ideas centred on sustainable business solutions. WFP is participating in two sessions on Thursday 15 June 2023.
‘UN World Food Programme’s Climate X Hunger Pitch Slam: Innovating for a World in Crisis.’ The ongoing climate emergency is a key driver of the global food crisis. Witness four innovators from WFP’s climate-focused innovation portfolio pitch their solutions live in front of an expert panel. Thursday 15 June 2023, Solution Stage, 14:00–15:00, Berlin TXL.
‘Feeding the World — Will FoodTech save us?’ Head of the WFP Innovation Accelerator, Bernhard Kowatsch, will participate in a panel discussion focused on what FoodTech can and can’t do to reshape how we eat, grow and produce food on a climate-affected planet. Thursday 15 June 2023, Main Stage, 15:30–16:00, Berlin TXL.
Visit the official Greentech Festival site for more information and tickets for both sessions.
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.
Find out more about us: http://innovation.wfp.org
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