Clinton challenge to solve the global food crisis

President Clinton challenged business students to solve the global food crisis for $1 million in seed money. Here are the finalists for the Hult Prize.

Aspire (McGill University, Canada) is hoping to solve the world’s hunger crisis one bug at a time. The startup provides low-cost insect farming systems to local farmers to help them harvest insects like crickets and grasshoppers year-round. Aspire then buys the insects — which are full of nutrients — from the farmers and distributes them to urban slums. Not only does this create income stability for the farmers, but it provides consistent nutrition at a more affordable price to those in need.

Reel Gardening (University of Capetown, South Africa) has what it calls a “fail-proof” seed system that can be grown into a vegetable or herb garden in nearly any climate. The startup created a paper strip that comes pre-packaged with seeds and fertilizers so it can be easily planted and maintained. The strips save 80% of water compared to more traditional methods of planting.

SokoText (The London School of Economics and Political Science) helps multiple vendors in urban slums combine produce orders so they’re able to place a cheaper wholesale purchase. Otherwise, small-scale vegetable sellers often can’t afford to buy produce in bulk. Vendors text their orders, and Sokotext responds with prices. The next morning, vendors can pick up their order from the outlet.

Origin (Esade Business School, Dubai) wants to use handheld technology to connect small vendors in slums directly with produce farmers, cutting out the middleman entirely. The startup launched a pilot program in Mumbai, providing vendors with handheld digital devices where they could place orders for fresh produce, which Origin passed on to local farmers. “By doing this, we can shorten the supply chain for fresh food to these communities and also bring down prices,” said Jon Myer, part of Origin’s team.

Poshnam (Asian Institute of Management, Shanghai) hopes to change the fact that over 1 billion tons of unsold food is wasted every year. The startup plans to purchase excess vegetables and grains from farmers and then use vendors to sell it at a discounted rate inside urban slums. Poshnam wants to train local women entrepreneurs to operate its mobile carts.

Pulse (Hult International Business School, San Francisco) developed an SMS-based system that allows the vendor to text a store credit to customers or put the credit on a card that the shopper can use for future purchases, to address the problem that in developing countries, vendors often can’t make the correct change after purchases.  “This helps households who don’t have access to credit cards to develop a safety net for their money to buy food in the future,” said Saul Minkoff, Pulse’s team leader.

[CNN]

India votes to expand food welfare

India plans to subsidize wheat, rice and cereals for some 800 million people under a $20 billion scheme to cut malnutrition and ease poverty.

India has some of the world’s worst poverty and malnutrition with two-thirds of its 1.2 billion people poor and half of the country’s children malnourished.

The Food Security Bill legislation allows those who qualify to buy 5 kilograms of rice a month for 3 rupees (4.5 cents) a kilogram. Wheat will cost 2 rupees a kilogram, and for cereals the cost is 1 rupee.

Pregnant women and new mothers will also receive at least 6,000 rupees ($90) in aid. In a deviation from India’s patriarchal traditions, the scheme designates the eldest woman in each home as the head of the household, hoping to prevent rations from ending up on the black market. This would also help keep subsidy costs from escalating, the government said.

The very poorest families, already receiving subsidized rates for up to 35 kilograms of grains a month, will continue to receive those benefits, the government said.

India has offered free midday school meals since the 1960s in an effort to persuade poor parents to send their kids to school. That program now reaches some 120 million children. The country gives a similar promise of a hot, cooked meal to pregnant women and new mothers — a promise the new bill extends to children between 6 and 14 years old.

Food Minister K.V. Thomas called the bill a first step toward improving food distribution in a country where poor transportation and lack of refrigeration mean up to 40 percent of all grains and produce rot before they reach the market.

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How important is the non-profit sector?

Despite limited resources, nonprofits take on our toughest social and global problems, and always are looking for new ways to learn, lead and grow. They address the symptoms as well as the causes of deeply rooted problems, and serve as civic society’s research-and-development arm.

Overworked, underpaid, under-appreciated and at risk as never before, the nonprofit sector represents what is best about America and remains the best hope for addressing our most urgent social and global problems.

Having grown more rapidly than business or government for decades, the nonprofit sector now accounts for 5 percent of gross domestic product and 10 percent of the workforce.

Nonprofits struggle, continually, to raise money, sometimes understanding the tools and techniques of fundraising, but rarely recognizing that truly effective fundraising must be part of a larger vision of creating a culture of philanthropy within the organization and connecting donors to larger needs in the community.

Many nonprofits are getting better at building effective business models, understanding and engaging donors, and working in partnership with their supporters to take on community problems and enlist additional partners.

Charitable giving, whether in the form of money, know-how or time, is fundamental to our society, and many nonprofits are doing a better job of nurturing donors for the greater good.

So despite the lack of resources, shortage of leadership, disproportionate clout of big players, lameness of many consultants, and ideological rigidity of many foundations and advocacy groups, the nonprofit sector offers the best hope for addressing our most urgent social and global problems and making our communities better places to live and work.

[Philanthropy Journal]