WFP Innovation Network: A Year in Review

WFP Innovation Accelerator
9 min readApr 19, 2024


Here’s how WFP’s innovation teams are driving impact from the ground up

By Gulia Rakhimova

Global Innovation Network Annual Workshop, September 2023. Photo: WFP.

At the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), we’ve seen firsthand that the best innovative solutions often come from the very communities we aim to assist. This vision is at the heart of the WFP Innovation Network, a growing network of 17 WFP Country Offices with innovation teams or focal points, two Regional Innovation Hubs, and a diverse community of WFP Innovation Champions based in 156 locations. The WFP Innovation Accelerator functions as a global innovation unit of the organization, while the Network, which has been growing since 2015, links an ecosystem of WFP innovation teams across the world.

As we look back on 2023 and release the latest Year in Review of the WFP Innovation Accelerator, we are excited to highlight the progress and achievements of the WFP Innovation Network.

Tapping local ecosystems for global impact

The WFP Innovation Network teams operate seven regional and country-based innovation programmes that have provided 73 local ventures with funding and acceleration support. Last year, they also implemented 13 innovation projects directly in WFP’s operations across several countries, assisting nearly 190,000 people. Four of these received financial support from the WFP Innovation Accelerator. Our inaugural WFP Innovation Day brought together more than 1,215 colleagues to celebrate some of these achievements.

Sharing knowledge drives innovation, and the WFP Innovation Network plays a crucial role in facilitating this. It allows us to tap into existing knowledge and resources across countries, learning from past experiences and established innovation practices in humanitarian contexts. In the past year, WFP innovation teams based in Regional Bureaux and Country Offices have created 41 knowledge pieces, gathering important insights from their work, and have hosted 116 events and workshops to promote knowledge-sharing and community engagement. With this mindset, more than 30 colleagues met in Nairobi, Kenya, in September 2023 for the first Global Innovation Network Annual Workshop. The event served as a platform for innovation teams to connect, exchange ideas, and explore ways to amplify the impact of WFP’s innovation efforts.

Read on to explore the innovation focus and portfolios of each WFP innovation team.

WFP’s Regional Innovation Hub for Latin America and the Caribbean (HZero)

Accelerating innovations focusing on food security and nutrition

Photo: WFP/Jose Miguel Barragan.

WFP’s Regional Innovation Hub for Latin America and the Caribbean (HZero), is a key regional hub based in Bogotá, Colombia. Last year, the Hub dedicated its efforts to sourcing innovative solutions and fostering a culture of innovation. Acelera HZero innovation programme focused on accelerating projects across Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Guatemala, and Peru. The programme impacted over 200,000 people through ten supported initiatives and forged 70 strategic connections with investors and key innovation ecosystem players.

In addition to financial support, HZero broadened its initiatives to include partnerships offering mentorship and expertise, thus enhancing the capacity and sustainability of the supported innovations. Moreover, the HZero internal innovation programme focused on facilitating a culture change within WFP, encouraging colleagues to understand and integrate innovation into their work. This has sparked a high interest among colleagues in learning about and applying innovation strategies across the region.

WFP’s Regional Innovation Hub for Eastern Africa

Envisioning a food system that is climate-resilient, inclusive, and locally-led

Theory of Change of the WFP’s Regional Innovation Hub for Eastern Africa.

Based in Nairobi, Kenya, WFP’s Regional Innovation Hub for Eastern Africa is WFP’s first regional innovation hub, established in collaboration with CARE Denmark. Last year, the Hub rolled out several programmes across the region aimed at supporting innovators at various stages of their journey. The IGNITE Innovation Challenge, for example, aimed to enhance food systems and climate resilience in countries like South Sudan, Rwanda, and Uganda. Meanwhile, IGNITE Seed and Sprout programmes provided crucial support and connections to early-stage teams and innovations seeking market fit in the region.

Other initiatives, like the Innovation Safari and R&D Lab, targeted operational challenges, working closely with Country Offices and local partners to develop innovative solutions. A notable achievement in 2023 was securing over US$ 7 million in follow-on funding by innovators in the Hub’s innovation programmes, highlighting the economic impact and growth these initiatives have spurred in the region.

WFP Kenya Country Office

Fostering, driving and scaling innovations that can help end hunger

WFP Kenya’s “Vijana in Kilimobizz” initiative significantly impacted the grassroots, supporting young female entrepreneurs, most of whom had never participated in any acceleration programmes. Photo: WFP/Andrea Kobor.

The WFP Kenya Country Office has one of the oldest innovation teams at WFP, whose work focuses on innovation services, sprint acceleration, scale-up acceleration, and knowledge management. One notable initiative was Vijana in Kilimobizz innovation challenge that supported young entrepreneurs based in the most remote and arid locations where food insecurity is the highest.

The team manages several innovations, including H2Grow, which equips communities in urban settlements and arid regions to grow their own food, and County Innovation Centres in Isiolo and Tana River, which support youth and bridge the innovation gap between rural and urban areas. Tech projects like School Connect help digitize information flow across 28 schools enhancing operational efficiency, while MEZA uses AI to digitize paper records in health clinics, saving over 20 percent of health workers’ time each month.

Apart from managing the innovation portfolio, the innovation team in Kenya is focused on nurturing an organizational culture change by providing direct innovation support and empowering colleagues with training in innovation methods such as human-centered design.

WFP Rwanda Country Office

Making innovation a cross-cutting enabler and developing innovative financing initiatives

SheCan is an innovative finance initiative that supports smallholder farmers and micro-entrepreneurs, promoting food security and financial inclusion in Rwanda. Photo: WFP Rwanda.

In 2023, WFP Rwanda embraced innovation as a cross-cutting enabler of its strategic plan. The team’s core activities spanned from managing innovation projects to fostering a culture of change and accelerating innovative solutions. Through the IGNITE Food Systems Challenge 2.0, the team facilitated the scaling of ventures focused on enhancing Rwanda’s food systems, while the SheCan initiative supported smallholder farmers and micro-entrepreneurs through innovative finance, increasing harvest yield by nearly 20–30 percent.

2023 also marked the introduction of WFP Rwanda BRIDGE, an innovative finance instrument that will catalyze private sector investment in ventures operating across the agriculture value chain. It will draw private sector investment into the agricultural sector, showcasing a model for enhancing food security while promoting sustainable economic growth.

WFP Tanzania Country Office

Building internal innovation capacity and supporting new solutions for WFP’s operations

Testing of an innovation prototype in Tanzania. Photo: WFP Tanzania.

WFP Tanzania mainstreamed innovation by building internal capacities and supporting new solutions for WFP operations. The Innovation Safari introduced a new model to build innovation capacities within WFP and the broader United Nations system, through an internal innovation challenge to capture and co-create solutions for daily WFP operations.

This initiative proved so successful that it inspired other Country Offices to adopt it and led to its expansion with support from the WFP Regional Bureau for Eastern Africa.

Beyond cultivating an innovative mindset, the WFP Tanzania team led the charge on several innovation projects. These included a comprehensive national school feeding census and mapping exercise, successfully cataloging over 17,000 public schools and creating a supportive web map. The team also launched the new Lishe Mobile App aimed at tracking nutrition and facilitated the Youth Consultation and Innovation Dialogue, a youth platform aimed at supporting smallholder farmers.

WFP Uganda Country Office

Accelerating innovative, commercially viable solutions to support underserved communities

Photo: WFP Uganda/Crisgrow.

WFP’s innovation work in Uganda is centered around three key areas: sourcing new

innovations, managing projects around these innovations, and forging local and regional partnerships to support these efforts.

This is achieved through programmes like IGNITE Food Systems Challenge 2.0, which aimed to identify, support and scale innovative solutions that strengthen climate resilience and promote food security across the country. Cumulatively, all programme ventures’ annual income (before tax) has increased substantially, reaching US$1.9 million in December 2023. This represents an impressive 68 percent increase since 2021, indicating sustained financial growth through innovation.

Moreover, the WFP Uganda team actively manages innovation projects such as the Malnutrition Eradication Therapy (METU-1). This initiative uses a unique mix of sorghum, peanuts, ghee, and honey to tackle malnutrition, which are all available locally, enabling access to healthy and nutritious diets for the people we assist.

WFP Guatemala Country Office

Bolstering innovative solutions to promote resilient food systems

WFP Guatemala piloted an innovative Anticipatory Actions model using NexGen drought forecasts, a first in Latin America and the Caribbean. Following a forecast, 1,200 sacks of 25-pound maize seeds were distributed per household in May 2023. Photo: WFP Guatemala.

WFP Guatemala’s work on innovation is closely tied to the Country Office and government programmes, spanning school feeding, climate and disaster risk financing, and tech training for rural and indigenous women. Projects like Climate Information Services provide communities with ground sensors to support climate data collection. Additionally, the Disaster Risk Insurance initiative has made a tangible impact, disbursing US$606,252 in 2023 to help households affected by drought and excessive rainfall. The Pilotas Resilientes programme is another innovative effort that trains women in drone operation to collect local topographic and climate data. Similarly, the Women Solar Engineers empowers rural and indigenous women with skills to bring solar power to remote areas of Guatemala.

The team also facilitated the dissemination of these technological innovations to local partners and government stakeholders, fostering collaboration and knowledge sharing. A key lesson from Guatemala’s experience is the importance of planning projects with sustainability and exit strategies in mind; by integrating initiatives into government schemes or enabling participants to sustain activities independently, we set the stage for lasting impact.

WFP Jordan Country Office

Supporting impact-focused start-ups, piloting, and helping them scale into country operations

In 2023, WFP Jordan hosted several sessions with youth for designing different innovation projects at the country level, and conducted four innovation bootcamps. Photo: WFP Jordan.

Established in 2020, WFP Jordan’s innovation work supports startups, including training, bootcamps, funding, mentorship, and valuable connections with government partners. In 2023, its innovation programmes like Youth Innovation in Food Security, Green Accelerator Middle East, and Grow Innovation Programme supported ventures at various development stages, focusing on agri-tech and food security.

WFP Jordan also manages projects directly, like Decapolis, an innovative blockchain traceability platform for smallholder farmers. Through Decapolis, WFP supported 730 farmers, procured and traced 960 tons of fresh produce for school meals and created 368 jobs. As a result, innovation is now considered a core function at the Country Office level; it has become a cross-cutting support activity on WFP Jordan’s new Strategic Plan, and multiple programmes now embrace innovation with a more inclusive approach.

Taking stock and looking ahead

The WFP Innovation Network embodies the essence of co-creation, showcasing the enormous potential of a globally connected yet locally anchored innovation ecosystem.

As we look toward the future, it will continue growing and playing an important role in fostering innovation at the grassroots, promoting the sharing of innovation knowledge across the organization, and inspiring solutions that bring us closer to a world free from hunger.

Explore the WFP Innovation Network.

  • If you are our colleague at WFP, join the WFP Innovation Champions Community — a community of practice that enables WFP colleagues across all divisions and regions to become agents of change, by participating in various innovation initiatives where they can build on their innovation confidence and vocabulary, collaborate with like-minded allies across the organization and become better equipped to assess and support innovation regardless of where they operate.
  • Are you a WFP Country Office or Regional Bureau with a strong innovation culture and portfolio and are not part of the WFP Innovation Network? Please get in touch at



WFP Innovation Accelerator

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