100&Change: 2021


The Toothpick Project: Improving Food Security through Biocontrol Innovation

Tackling Striga, Africa’s worst weed, our project improves food security: transferring innovative bioherbicide technology to rapidly build the capacity of science teams and commercial networks.

Submitted: August 2019
DOWNLOAD: Project Factsheet
Two-page overview of proposal
Competition Participation
100&Change: 2021
Food security
Current Work Location(s):
  • Kakamega, Kenya
  • Khartoum, Sudan
  • Centre Region, Cameroon
  • Bamako Region, Mali
  • Harare Province, Zimbabwe
  • Nairobi, Kenya
Priority Population(s):
  • People of African descent
  • Economically disadvantaged people
  • Farmers
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):
  • 1. No poverty
  • 2. Zero hunger
  • 5. Gender equality
  • 8. Decent work and economic growth
  • 15. Life on land

Executive Summary

In sub-Saharan Africa the parasitic weed Striga causes $9 billion in annual harvest damage. Our bioherbicide technology, a virulence-enhanced Fusarium fungus, kills Striga effectively. On over 500 proof-of-concept field trials, Foxy increased crop yield by 42-56% (#1). We are now galvanizing the innovative technology through a last-mile distribution system from lab-to-field. Advancement of bioherbicide technology is dependent on increasing the number of experts in the field. Through a highly trained network of African biocontrol scientists, we will transfer the technology to 16 Striga-diseased countries. Using our Kenyan pilot model, we’ll scale up to reach at least 1,000,000 farmers by 2025. Using pieces of wood (earlier toothpicks) embedded with selected Foxy strains, farmers apply a fresh inoculum on-farm, which is safe, effective, and affordable. With a final objective of increasing crop yield, we will customize the village-level inoculum production system to fit to proven rural distribution models that utilize village producers.

Organization Details
Lead Organization


website: https://www.welthungerhilfe.org
Organization Headquarters
Regierungsbezirk Köln, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany
Organization ID
Annual Operating Budget
$200 to $499 Million
Number of Full-time Employees
> 1,000

Charity, fund, non-governmental organization, religious institution, school, or other entity

COVID-19 Response

Changes to operations include a shift in resources from research and long-term sustainable development programs to emergency relief aid, and concerns around fiscal impact. Current work reliant on farmer groups has slowed, and after planting season ended the team is now sheltering in place and monitoring projects remotely. The second major training for the charter science team was postponed, and virtual options are resuming until travel restrictions are lifted. Changes to the proposal include extended distance learning platforms for the science team, and changes to the distribution system are being evaluated in case social distancing and travel restrictions remain in place.