Young Jordanian Innovators Combat Food Insecurity with WFP and UNICEF Support

The U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) and the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) recently granted seed funding to five young men and women to help them launch start-ups working on food security solutions in Jordan.

“The WFP and UNICEF partnership is intended to help bridge the gap that young entrepreneurs face when navigating their entrepreneurial journey,” Dima Salameh, Media Officer at UNICEF Jordan, tells Food Tank.

A group of 22 young Jordanians between the ages of 18 and 26 participated in the joint WFP/UNICEF Youth in Food Security Innovation Programme. The initiative provided entrepreneurs with food security training and industry networking opportunities. At the conclusion of the program, 12 finalists, including 10 women, presented their ideas to a panel of experts. And the WFP and UNICEF selected five winning project proposals to receive further support.

These initiatives aim to address issues in the country’s food security through a number of ways: developing healthy school meal alternatives; managing solid waste; recycling fruit and vegetable peels to remove heavy metals from water; and increasing farmers’ production levels with an organic agricultural capsule. Winners will receive seed funding of  US$4,000 (2,800 Jordanian Dinars) and will work closely with mentors to implement their projects.

The 2020 Global Hunger Index reports that Jordan has very low levels of hunger, but the nation faces structural and political challenges that threaten food security. Some of the country’s most pressing challenges stem from low agricultural production, water scarcity, unemployment, and stark disparities between regions and population groups, most notably among refugees.

According to the WFP, Jordan is a resource-poor, food-deficit country with limited agricultural land and lacks oil resources, unlike its neighbors, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. And the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) describes how Jordan is one of the most water-scarce countries across the globe.

“Climate change is an unprecedented threat to all children and young people—to their health, nutrition, education, development, survival and future potential. Girls in Jordan are particularly vulnerable and will bear the greatest burden of these impacts,” Salameh tells Food Tank.

Jordan hosts over 670,000 Syrian and 87,700 refugees of other nationalities registered with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Among refugee populations, 23.4 percent are food insecure, with an additional 60 percent vulnerable to food insecurity, according to a recent WFP report.

In Jordan, 63 percent of the population is under 30, one of the youngest populations in the world, UNICEF reports. While youth face the highest rates of unemployment, they are also the most interested in entrepreneurship. Around 50 percent of youth in Jordan have expressed an interest in starting their own business, according to a recent policy brief from UNICEF.

“Young people around the world have the ideas that can transform the world and tackle the greatest challenges facing their generation including climate change, water scarcity and food insecurity,” Salameh tells Food Tank. She says the UNICEF partnership with WFP “aims to unlock this potential, turning it into real and meaningful action for young people in Jordan.”

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Photo courtesy of Yazan Obeidat, Unsplash

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