Teams rise up to the Challenge

Western students Linta Mustafa, left, and Anisha Khanna, both Health Sciences, and Robert Celik, Geography, are the 2016 winners of the World’s Challenge Challenge, a competition held annually during International Week.

Adela Talbot // Western NewsWestern students Linta Mustafa, left, and Anisha Khanna, both Health Sciences, and Robert Celik, Geography, are the 2016 winners of the World’s Challenge Challenge, a competition held annually during International Week.

In its third year, the World’s Challenge Challenge has become a staple of Western’s International Week. The event sees more than 30 student teams in competition, presenting a unique solution to a global challenge, in front of a panel of judges that includes academic and community leaders. The winning team members each receive $1,000 to help fund a Western-sanctioned international learning opportunity.

This year, the winning team will also move on to compete in the first International World’s Challenge Challenge in May 2017 for an opportunity to win $30,000 ($10,000 per team member).

First place

Addressing the sustainability of contemporary agricultural food systems

Linta Mustafa, Health Sciences

Anisha Khanna, Health Sciences

Robert Celik, Geography

Most people are unaware of the severe environmental and social implications of our current food system and the negative impact of the meat they are consuming. Rearing livestock for food is extremely inefficient and contributes to global food insecurity and inequality. Each year, more than 70 billion animals are raised for food across the world. Livestock consumed huge volumes of water and feed, produced waste, changed land use and produced greenhouse gases, all directly contributing to climate change.

The team’s plan is to encourage responsible food consumption and production through low-input meat alternatives, such as edible cricket products. These food products have the greatest potential to increase healthy food accessibility, locally and globally, with the least environmental cost. With targeted education and access to alternative protein sources, it is possible to minimize the covert impact of every bite we take. Despite being extremely nutritious, the developed world has grown to view insects as pests, and insects are rarely considered as potential food. The team aims to reverse the negative perception towards insect-based meat alternatives, such as cricket powder, for a more sustainable food system.

Second place

Sustainable empowerment for women in Tanzania

Stephanie Huff, Occupational Science, PhD candidate

Andrea Burke, International Relations

Gagan Singh, Microbiology & Immunology

Gendered violence and gender inequity has led to an unfortunate reality for many girls and women living in Tanzania. A number of sociocultural factors in the country perpetuate poverty and violence, while a lack of resources bars victims of gendered violence from opportunities to move past and improve their situations.

Environmental degradation has also exacerbated injustices Tanzanian females encounter daily, as deforestation has led to a crisis in rural villages. Women and girls spend hours each day in isolated areas searching for firewood, where many of them are assaulted.

Huff and Burke, who participated in the Western Heads East program, witnessed these issues first-hand in Mwanza, Tanzania.

To effectively mitigate the effects of climate change and stabilize equality for girls and women in Tanzania, the team proposed an agricultural program that allows the development of a micro-economy that would provide necessary soft-skills and ensure sustainability. The idea is to train local women and girls in rural Tanzanian communities to cultivate a sustainable, symbiotic relationship between the jatropha plant and honey bees. The mutual transaction between the flora and fauna will create opportunities for them to profit economically through natural resources that are accessible and familiar to them. This is a community-based, grassroots gardening project that would enable girls and women to learn agricultural skills and benefit economically.

Third place

Developing economic profiles for refugees

Gareth Gransaull, Political Science

Jasmine Wang, Medical Science

Amy Wang, Computer Science

The international community now faces the greatest refugee crisis since the end of the Second World War, with the exodus of displaced peoples more than tripling in the past 10 years as the Syrian conflict has intensified. The need for livable refugee camps will only compound in coming decades with a number of socioeconomic, environmental and political factors contributing to unparalleled numbers of stateless persons.

The group sees economic self-sufficiency as a major imperative of ameliorating refugee conditions. It is necessary to first make refugee camps livable communities, a place that can streamline, rather than protract, the migration process.

The team’s solution to refugee economic impoverishment is to provide refugees with opportunities to build financial credit profiles through Blockchain technology, helping them to find work opportunities during and after the migration process. As many refugees travel through different areas, they often don’t have legal documentation, leaving them unable to access banking and credit services. Blockchain creates a public ledger of all financial transactions, accessible to anyone over the Internet – refugees would not need to establish a financial profile with a bank, as transactions can be performed over Bitcoin, of which an instant record appears. The online currency automatically creates a portable economic identity owned by the individual permanently, one easily retrievable and verifiable. Blockchain provides a secure way to track every transaction for migratory people, creating an economic profile not available to them otherwise.