CSU team wins humanitarian competition involving 130 students from 16 countries

HUMLOG finalists

Julia Choolwe Munsaka, top left, Tessa Lapray, top right, Blerinda Veliu, bottom left, and Emily Bergman, bottom right, made it to the finalist round of the international HUMLOG competition.

A team of four Colorado State University students have been named the winners in an international competition designed to offer solutions to countries grappling with natural disasters and the supply chain issues that ensue.  

Impact MBA students Emily Bergman, Tess Lapray and Blerinda Veliu teamed up with Julia Choolwe Munsaka,  a Ph.D student in the Political Science Department,  to share their proposal to build “resiliency kits” for people in Mozambique.  

“We wouldn’t have known Julia if it weren’t for this competition,” Veliu said. “It’s so rewarding to break those silos of research and work with other people at CSU looking at the same problems we are.”  

Team CSU was one of the top six and is now a winner in the Hanken School of Economics HUMLOG Challenge, which attracted 37 teams of 130 students from 21 schools in 16 countries. The team will receive $5,000.

Munsaka, from Zambia, is focusing her research on Mozambique because the African country’s many miles of coastline have made it vulnerable to the natural disasters that have become more frequent due to climate change.  

She said that food insecurity is one of the major issues that arise after disasters, and that’s why her team zeroed in on this topic by developing solutions to help communities help themselves.  

“We developed a resiliency kit, as well as community training,” Munsaka said, “In this resiliency kit, we designed it in such a way that it would be a hermetically-sealed food bag that contains crop seeds.”  

Distributing the bags would require partnerships with the nonprofits and nongovernmental organizations already on the ground after disasters hit.  

Bergman said that the goal is for the kits to cost $1 each, and also to include evacuation materials to lessen human impact during the next disaster. The plan is for the people building the resiliency kits to be from Mozambique, creating additional jobs in one of the poorest countries in the world.  

“We’re really trying to step back and allow space for communities to create and lead their own disaster response initiatives, with support from the government and other NGOs,” Bergman said.  

The team has a five-year plan for implementing its strategy, and the goal is for their proposal to become a reality.  

It fits in with their educational trajectories. As part of the Impact MBA program, Bergman, Lapray and Veliu created a company called Azana, which is a communication platform for nonprofits and NGOs on the ground in places that need help. It enables these organizations to communicate with companies and other donors about what they need, in order to reduce both poverty and wasted donations.  

“I’m really grateful for my team  meeting them here at CSU, having the opportunity to work with them, and building and developing a company with them,” Bergman said.   

Veliu and her family were once refugees during the Kosovo War in 1998-99. She is now a Fulbright Scholar, and plans to return to her home country to help it develop agriculturally when she graduates from the Impact MBA program in December.  

“The only way people can survive these challenges is if you work with them on ways for them to help themselves,” she said.  

The presentation

Watch the video below for Team CSU’s presentation in the HUMLOG challenge.