United Nations Food Programme Leveraging Blockchain Technology for Supply Chain and Identity Management Purposes

By Daniel Zo Blockchain, WFP, Africa, UN,

The potential of blockchain technology for supply chain purposes has often been praised by experts throughout the world. Now, recent reports indicate that the United Nations World Food Programme, commonly known as the WFP, will begin blockchain-based supply chain management testing in Africa.

With this in mind, the WFP has tested out a similar system for refugee aid purposes in the Middle East. With the project’s newest implementation, blockchain technology will be used to track food delivery in the east African region. More exactly, the blockchain network will track food shipments arriving in Djibouti, on their way to Ethiopia, where the UN’s main food operation camp is located.

World Food Program

According to Robert Opp, who is the WFP Director for Innovation and Change, the program will attempt to answer the following question: "Can we increase efficiency by knowing in real time where the food is, be able to demonstrate the food's origin in shipment points, to have this traceability record?"

By leveraging the supply chain system, the WFP will be able to reduce the amount of spoiled food, increase delivery efficiency, and actively keep track of all food supplies given out. Thanks to blockchain’s transparency, the WFP will ensure that no food is being wasted, and that all people in need receive their share.

Reports indicate that the WFP is planning yet another blockchain-related initiative that will benefit Syrian refugees in Jordanian camps. The program will attempt to educate refugee women about using blockchain technology to manage personal data, and control third party access.

Opp said, "We want to know how easy it is for people to interact with a system like blockchain and understand, ‘this is my data, I can control access.’ We yet have to figure out how it will look." It is believed that this particular system will take advantage of the identity system built by the UN as part of the Building Blocks project – a system based on Ethereum, providing refugees with cash transfer services.

The WFP Building Blocks project allows refugees to pay for groceries, and receive cash back at supermarkets, after scanning their irises for identity verification. At this time, the system helps 106,000 Syrian refugees, and it is estimated that roughly $40,000 in transfer fees is saved every month.

In terms of data security, "The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees keeps the full biometric data in a secure cloud solution. We only download some basic unique identifying information; we don't put their full information on blockchain. I'm not even sure that their full names go there."

Based on everything that has been outlined so far, blockchain technology is already having an important humanitarian impact in the less fortunate regions of the world.