Global Innovation Challenge 2018

Develop strategies to strengthen equitable and just food systems in the Global South

May 21-25, 2018 | 403 Hayes Hall, UB South Campus

What is the Global Innovation Challenge?

This one-week workshop is open to undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students from all majors: anthropology to architecture, English to engineering, media to management, political science to public health, sociology to social work. Participants will engage in team-building activities, and work with expert international stakeholders and UB faculty to develop social, technological, business, educational, and policy innovations to address significant and persistent global health challenges.


You may participate in the Global Innovation Challenge for a fee or for 1 or 3 hours of course credit. Fees are $100 for UB students and $200 for students from other Universities. The three-credit option allows undergraduates to earn UB Curriculum and SUNY general education credits. Students registered for the three-credit option must meet with the professor prior to the start of the Global Innovation Challenge and must complete the distance-education requirements for the course. 

Your registration includes breakfast and lunch, team-building activities, interaction with expert global stakeholders, and a chance to win funding to support further development of your ideas. Your participation requires you be present during the entirety of the workshop, Monday-Thursday from 8am-5pm and Friday from 8am-1pm.

Questions about the Global Innovation Challenge or financial assistance can be directed to Jessica Scates (

About the 2018 Challenge

  • learn about the life experiences and challenges of small-holder farmers
  • partner with faculty experts and international professionals
  • advance your creative problem-solving and collaboration skills
  • compete for funding to further your ideas

Smallholder farms provide at least 50% of the agricultural output for domestic consumption in most low- and middle-income countries. Smaller than two acres in size, smallholder farms account for about 70 percent of all farms. Yet, the 500+ million households that run these farms withstand the worst food insecurity, especially in the Global South. Limited access to capital, markets, land, technology, and training, as well as political stressors, gender inequities, and, more recently, climate change, amplify the vulnerability of smallholder farm families.

Historically, top-down policy efforts have been the primary strategy for addressing the challenges smallholder farmers experience. This approach neglects the complexity and localized nature of urban and regional food systems. For example, agriculture is not only found in rural areas; globally about 68,000,000 hectares, or 15.7%, of all irrigated and rain-fed cropland is in urban and peri-urban areas. Producers who farm in different contexts face different challenges.

An alternative approach is farmer-centered: learning from and building capacity among farmers in order to achieve practical and sustainable solutions to meet the consumption demands of the world’s population and the farmers themselves. Nevertheless, with an increasing policy emphasis on large-scale agricultural production, innovative strategies are needed to support and empower smallholder farmers.

The Challenge

Develop innovative strategies to cultivate food equity in the Global South – improving the health, livelihoods, and environments of smallholder farmers. 

Photo Credit: CIAT, Bean Market 25lo, Neil Palmer, 2009, Modified

CIAT, Bean Market 25lo, Neil Palmer, 2009, Modified


In a world of plenty, no one, not a single person, should go hungry…But almost 1 billion still do not have enough to eat. I want to see an end to hunger everywhere, within my lifetime.

– Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary-General in 2012 on the “Zero Hunger Challenge”

2018 Partner Organziation | Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Jorge Fonesca, UN FAO

Jorge M. Fonseca currently serves as the Programme Adviser for the Food Systems Strategic Programme of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. In this capacity he provides expertise to member States in different areas related to food systems, including activities related to FAO’s Urban Food Agenda. For FAO he previously served as Economic and Food System Analyst, and also as an Agro-Industry Officer providing supervision of field projects in Latin America, Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa.  Prior to joining FAO he was an Associate Professor at The University of Arizona, where he led the state’s postharvest and produce safety research and extension program. He also worked as consultant for the private sector in multiple countries and US federal agencies. He is a member of the independent expert group of the Global Nutrition Report. He holds a PhD in Food Technology from Clemson University, USA.

2018 Expert Fellows

Tanveer Dar

Tanveer Ahmad Dar, State Project Manager J&K State Rural Livelihoods Mission for the Governmnet of Jammu and Kashmir has a Masters in Social Work from the University of Kashmir, Srinagar and M.Phil in Public Health from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He has worked with Supreme Court Commissioners on Right to Food, New Delhi; National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, Government of India; and ActionAid Association (INGO). He has led many programmes in Kashmir on the issues of livelihoods, children’s rights, mental health, education and disaster responses, and has been actively engaged in many initiatives on governance and people’s rights. His research has focused on understanding the complexities of public health, food security and education in the context of long term conflict in Kashmir using a social determinants perspective. His publications include a dissertation of the public provisioning and people’s access to health services in Kashmir, a report for Supreme Court Commissioners on Right to Food, New Delhi titled ‘Hunger in the Valley’, and articles on education and food security issues in Kashmir. Tanveer is currently working on to understand the complexity of changes in Socio-Economic conditions and Health Status in Jammu and Kashmir since the conflict began in Kashmir.

Biraj Patnaik

Biraj Patnaik is the Regional Director (South Asia) for Amnesty International and also the Principal Adviser to the Commissioners to the Supreme Court in the Right to Food case. He has been responsible for the oversight of food programs of the government of India on behalf of the court, for the past ten years.  He was part of the lobbying, campaigning and advocacy efforts for the landmark National Food Security Act in India. He was concurrently the Associate Director of the Centre for Equity Studies, a Delhi-based public policy and advocacy institution. 

Jim Sumberg

Jim Sumberg is an agriculturalist by training and has over 25 years experience working on small-scale farming systems and agricultural research policy in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. He joined the Institute of Development Studies as a Research Fellow in October 2009. Previously he served as Programme Director at The New Economics Foundation and Senior Lecturer in Natural Resource Management in the School of Development Studies, University of East Anglia. He has also held research positions at WADRA - the Africa Rice Centre, the International Livestock Centre for Africa, CARE International and the Gambian Livestock Department.

A key research interest has been the dynamics of change within agricultural systems.There have been two sub-strands to this work. The first explores the persistence of agricultural research and development themes such as de-stocking, mixed farming and fodder legumes despite consistently poor results from promotional programmes. The second strand focuses on agricultural research as a development intervention. Here he has published on the farming systems research movement; farmer-participatory research; the potential role of concepts from industrial 'new product development' in targeting research; and the value of systems of innovation theory in understanding the challenges to agricultural research in sub-Saharan Africa.

More recently he has worked on the agricultural development potential of "home-grown school feeding", the changing global food system and the growth of interest in 'local' food within the UK.

Dr. K Vasuki

Dr. K Vasuki has served as the 42District Collector of Thiruvananthapuram since September 2017, in the state of Kerala, India. Her work has focused on green protocols throughout the district and at major state and national events. Dr. Vasuki is a member of the prestigious Indian Administrative Service (IAS), class of 2008. Trained at the Madras Medical College, Dr. Vasuki chose to make civil service her career to work for the development of people. Prior to her work in Kerala, Dr. Vasuki worked in Madhya Pradesh, in Dindori district with the Biaga tribe. In Kerala, Dr. Vasuki has promoted recycling and reusbale materials for large-scale events to reduce plastic waste. 

Program Materials

Previous Global Innovation Challenges

The world is amidst the largest humanitarian refugee crisis since WWII. This affects not only refugee populations and the nations that border conflict areas but cities and countries around the world. For example, approximately 1,500 refugees arrive in Buffalo each year – making it one of the top resettlement sites in the U.S.
Global Innovation Challenge (GIC) 2016 participants assessed problems and developed innovative social, economic, technological, and public-policy solutions to meet the sanitation needs of one of the world's most vulnerable populations: the 360 million children and adults with disabilities worldwide.