World Bank launches Agriculture Risk Innovation Challenge to address food security in Southern Africa

March 18, 2020


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The World Bank and Draper University team-up to launch three Agriculture Risk Innovation Challenges to address agriculture and food security risks in Southern Africa.

According to the World Bank Agricultural Observatory, Southern Africa is facing three distinct agricultural problems:

  • Crop failures due to extreme weather events (drought, floods)
  • Animal and/or plant pests or diseases
  • Food price, agriculture, and trade flow disruptions

With three problems come three proposed innovation challenges:

  1. To develop alternative ways to measure weather variables — Weather data is essential for the development of risk finance mechanisms and other key tools to strengthen the financial resilience of farmers to climatic shocks. This includes measurements of excess rainfall and rainfall deficit, among other variables.
  2. To provide alternative solutions to predict or monitor high-risk conditions of vector-borne diseases for livestock — Pathogens are expanding in new areas never affected before, exacting significant economic cost on the livestock and crop sector. Prevention and early warning for rapid response are essential.
  3. To present time series of agriculture data (yield, price, production) data for crops relevant to the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) in an electronic format — With the expansion of novel data collection techniques, non-traditional methods of data collection can leap-frog traditional methods such as yield collection and expand the scope and availability of risk financing instruments for farmers.

These challenges call for innovative agriculture risk financing tools to help inform public sector policy in Southern Africa and inform decision making regarding allocation of public resources to reduce economic losses, poverty, and food insecurity, according to the organizers.

Applications are open until April 2, and the winners of each prize will have the opportunity to present their solutions in a Shark Tank format before a panel of experts, as well as exhibit their proposals in a report on agriculture innovations by the World Bank and partners.

Winners will also be invited to an all-expenses-paid trip to the awards ceremony in Washington, DC to interact with potential partners and share their findings.

To highlight the need for agricultural innovation in Southern Africa, the World Bank’s Agriculture Sector Disaster Risk Assessment on SADC member Zimbabwe shows that “disaster-related shocks along Zimbabwe’s agricultural supply chains directly translate to volatility in agricultural GDP.”

“The findings presented here confirm that it is highly pertinent for Zimbabwe to strengthen the capacity to manage risk at various levels, from the smallholder farmer, to other participants along the supply chain, to consumers (who require a reliable, safe food supply), and ultimately to the government to manage natural disasters,” according to the report.

The SADC is a Regional Economic Community comprising 16 Member States: Angola, Botswana, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

The Agriculture Risk Innovation Challenge is supported by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, and The State and Peacebuilding Fund. Partners in this effort include: Gro Intelligence, Accenture, African Development Bank, InnMind, Georgetown University, the Platform for Agriculture Risk Management.

The Sociable is an official media partner for the Agriculture Risk Innovation Challenge.

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