World Food Program encourages new ideas to tackle food insecurity at its innovation hub

EAST AFRICA – The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is providing US$2 million support to the UN World Food Program (WFP) East Africa Innovation Hub to find innovative solutions to strengthen food security by moving beyond traditional food assistance towards long-term resilience.

With the region facing the compounding impacts of insecurity, COVID-19, and natural disaster including flooding that destroys crops and livelihoods, the hub will encourage early-stage entrepreneurs to develop innovative solutions to address gaps in current efforts and take on the greatest challenges to addressing food insecurity.

Part of the funding will focus on local, private-sector solutions in South Sudan, Rwanda, and Uganda and build on USAID’s ongoing partnership with WFP.

In addition, it will provide entrepreneurs with access to funding, mentorship, and hands-on support to turn their ideas into actions that will help to tackle hunger. 

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While compounding disasters introduce new challenges to humanitarian response, this support is critical to implementing systemic changes and identifying new, more effective approaches in how WFP and other organizations respond to needs across the region. 

It builds on an additional US$2.5 million in support USAID provided for WFP’s innovation efforts in Fiscal Year 2021 alone.

WFP, IFC to promote health, food security in Rwanda

In Rwanda, WFP, IFC, Kigali-based agriculture start-up AflaSight, and research firm Vanguard Economics have launched two innovative pilot projects aimed at improving maize quality in the country by reducing the prevalence of aflatoxins in crops and grains.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that over 500 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are exposed to aflatoxin’s serious long-term health effects.

In Rwanda, agro-processors struggle to source locally grown, high-quality maize that is not contaminated and rely mostly on imports. Contaminated maize, meanwhile, is prevalent in the informal market. The two pilots being launched by WFP, IFC and partners will help combat this problem.

For the first pilot, IFC is introducing two mobile grain testing facilities which will move between 10 major grain trading hubs across Rwanda.

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Implemented by Vanguard Economics, these “AflaKiosks” will provide free grain testing services which will allow traders and farmers to determine the quality of their grain before selling it, thus providing farmers with access to more markets and better prices for their uncontaminated maize.

The Aflakiosk pilot is supported by the Private Sector Window of the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP).

The second pilot involves testing ground-breaking sorting machinery that can detect and sort aflatoxin-infected maize.

WFP’s Innovation Accelerator is supporting Kigali-based AflaSight to pilot the machinery—the first of its kind in Africa.

Trials of the machine found that this process reduced aflatoxins by up to 90 percent, with only five percent volume loss, and was able to process up to 20 metric tons of maize per hour.  

AflaSight will also offer complementary services such as aflatoxin testing, drying, and maize sorting which will increase overall maize quality and help connect farmers and traders to large, formal grain buyers.

Both pilots are planned for an initial six months, during which evaluations will be carried out to identify areas for improvement and possible expansion in the country.

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