Better Than Cash: Harnessing New Technologies To Fight Hunger

Cash and food voucher programmes like this one in the Phillippines are revolutionizing the way WFP delivers food assistance. Copyright: WFP/ Masanobu Horie

Digital food is the future of humanitarian food assistance, says WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin who joined with agency heads and private partners in launching the innovative “Better than Cash Alliance” on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

NEW YORK—New technologies are changing the way WFP delivers food assistance, said Executive Director Ertharin Cousin who took part in a global leaders forum on Monday to launch a new alliance for “digital food”.

“By 2015, WFP expects 30 percent of its assistance programmes to be delivered in the form of cash and digital food,” said WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin. WFP is committed to expanding the use of food vouchers and cash as assistance tools and use electronic modes of transfer wherever possible, she added.

“This Alliance advocates for one of the best ideas around,” underlined Cousin. “It is a must-have partnership for every organization that cares about making food assistance more efficient, secure and transparent.”

Better than cash

The “Better than Cash” Alliance brings together a cross section of private sector companies, host country governments, multilateral and bilateral donors, UN Agencies and international NGOs to empower people by shifting from cash to electronic payments.

The new initiative will call on governments, the development community and the private sector to adopt the use of electronic payments for programs that support people living in poverty—and provide resources to those who commit to make the transition.

WFP is using already innovative “digital food” and cash programmes delivered by text message to address hunger in places where food is available in the markets, but where poor people cannot afford to buy it.

More choice

Cash and vouchers are often preferred by those receiving WFP food assistance because they allow for greater choice and variety. People can choose fresh foods such as eggs, cheese or milk, which do not normally form part of WFP food rations.

As a member of the Better than Cash Alliance, WFP is committed to expanding the use of electronic transfers to promote financial inclusion wherever the required financial infrastructure exists.