By the year 2030, the global population is expected to reach 8.5 billion—almost one billion more than our current population of 7.6 billion, a number which has already increased sevenfold over the past 200 years. Sixty percent of the future population is predicted to dwell in urban areas, thereby exerting new pressures on food systems in terms of water supplies, sewage, the living environment and public health.
According to global projections, 60% more food will be needed to feed the world population in 2050. Global energy consumption is projected to grow by up to 50% by 2035. Total global water withdrawals for irrigation are projected to increase by 10% by 2050.
Meanwhile, climate change is wreaking havoc on agricultural productivity due to changing rainfall patterns, drought, flooding, and the redistribution of diseases geographically.
This information alone might not capture the full picture regarding what’s at stake. What these projections have failed to account for is the power of innovation to disrupt our current trajectory and alter the direction in which humanity is heading.
Of course, there is no simple solution to the myriad of challenges facing this age. Addressing the problems of food and water scarcity and energy depletion in the face of a growing population will necessitate a multifaceted, multilateral approach. The solution requires “all hands on deck” in order to succeed, involving both public and private sector actors in the process. Partnership, collaboration, and innovation must be at the forefront of all efforts.
The new Water and Energy for Food (WE4F) Grand Challenge does just that. The WE4F program’s mission is to expand the scale of innovations that impact the sectors food and water, food and energy or all three sectors of the nexus (food, water, energy) to increase the sustainability of agricultural food value chains and address climate change in developing countries and emerging markets.
WE4F is the product of two existing development initiatives: “Powering Agriculture: An Energy Grand Challenge for Development (PAEGC), a partnership managed by USAID, the Government of Sweden (Sida), the Government of Germany (BMZ), Duke Energy Corporation and the United States OPIC, and the Grand Challenge: Securing Water for Food (SWFF), managed by USAID, Sweden through the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), the Government of South Africa, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Combining the efforts of PAEGC and SWFF, WE4F seeks to find the nexus between maximizing water availability and energy efficiency for food security. The programme will aim to capitalize on the vast resources and learnings from both SWFF and PAEGC programmes, scaling their most promising innovations to the next level.
Innovation disrupts a space crowded with less-than-satisfactory methods and leverages existing expertise to invent new ways of addressing old problems.
By supporting these innovations to scale, WE4F has the potential to catalyze transformative change and large-scale impact in the food sector, assisting millions of people around the world who are a part of the global food chain. Through innovation, the programme will seek to generate new solutions and expand resource efficiency for the creation of a better world.
That’s the power of innovation: it creates something out of nothing. Innovation disrupts a space crowded with less-than-satisfactory methods and leverages existing expertise to invent new ways of addressing old problems. It draws from all sources available and thinks outside of the box. But in order to be effective, innovation requires steady external support.
With the help of innovation and partnership, we can curb the effects of resource depletion and population growth. We can support individuals, communities, and countries on their journey to self-reliance. And we can shift the course of humanity one degree closer to the creation of a better world. Crisis averted. Innovation is on the way.