As WE4F wraps up the first Calls for Innovations in East Africa and West Africa and prepares to launch the second Calls for Innovations in the Middle East and North Africa, we’re thinking about one of the most important conferences we attended this summer – World Water Week 2021.
Three years ago, when Water and Energy for Food was first announced at World Water Week 2018, the possibilities of the program’s success and what could be done existed only in the speakers’ imaginations and project documents. World Water Week 2021, however, was a very different experience, as those dreamed-about possibilities have changed into real actions, real learned lessons, and real stories on how to build resilience faster and impact the water-energy-food nexus.
WE4F’s August 25th session, Building Climate Resilient, Water-Energy Efficient Agriculture through Regional Innovation Hubs (RIHs), brought together regional experts and conference attendees to discuss the program’s past, present, and future. With more than 90 people tuning in, there were some key takeaways that any water-energy-food nexus stakeholder could benefit from:
Every region in which WE4F works is facing threats to their agricultural sectors and the water and energy used by farmers to grow food.
We can tackle these challenges by working and developing partnerships with the private sector, together we can scale innovations to impact the most vulnerable smallholder farmers.
Smallholder farmers and women need to be protected in the context of climate change, with increasingly late & scanty arrivals of the rainy season. – Hannah Zander, West Africa RIH
Climate resilience is on the minds of every farmer, business, government, researcher, and implementer – of the 153 applications submitted to the East Africa Call for Innovations, most were for productive use of energy and irrigation solutions.
In order to ensure that water-energy-food innovations reach smallholder farmers and women, new end-user financing models must be developed.
31% of session poll respondents thought that the most important/impactful solution for the water-energy-food nexus was improving access to finance for smallholder farmers and other end-users.
Attendees agreed that the RIHs were on the right track but pointed out avenues to improve programming and have a greater impact.
Word cloud detailing most common responses to the question “How should organizations like WE4F pivot for future programming?”
Business in developing countries and emerging economies have scalable solutions but need technical assistance and investment facilitation to go from hundreds or thousands of end-users, to millions. In particular, there is a need for consumer financing, gender mainstreaming, and base of the pyramid support.
“Achieving the inclusivity goals is not a one-time activity that anybody can get done with. It is a journey.” – Raisa Chowdhury, South and Southeast Asia RIH
COVID-19 has resulted in businesses pivoting and programs looking to work with the private sector need to adjust accordingly. Some of the most useful tools are peer-to-peer learning, partnership development, and business model support.
The expert panelists and audience really touched on what WE4F sees as the main targets of the program, while illuminating pathways to new and increased impact. In the coming months, as we launch new Calls for Innovations, explore partnerships, and work on end-user financing, this session will continue to be at the forefront of our minds. If you missed the session or would like a refresher on what happened, you can still watch it below.