Water & Energy for Food (WE4F): A Grand Challenge for Development  

WE4F is a joint international initiative of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the European Union (EU), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Government of the Netherlands, Sweden through the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Announced at World Water Week 2018 and launched at Social Capital Markets 2019 signature event in San Francisco, CaliforniaWE4F aims to: 

  • Increase food production along the value chain through a more sustainable and efficient usage of water and/or energy. 
  • Increase income for base of the pyramid women and men in both rural and urban areas.  
  • Sustainably scale innovators’ solutions to meet the challenges in the WE4F nexus. 
  • Promote climate and environmental resilience and biodiversity through the sustainable, holistic management of natural resources and ecosystems. 

How WE4F Works

The WE4F program capitalizes on the learnings from Powering Agriculture: An Energy Grand Challenge for Development (PAEGC) and Securing Water for Food (SWFF) Grand Challenge. The program is focused on environmentally sustainable innovations aiming to improve energy and water efficiency in the agricultural sector. 

The WE4F initiative will work with promising innovations that were identified and nurtured during the PAEGC and SWFF to support their next level of scaling. At the same time, the program will open up new calls for innovations within the water-agriculture-food nexus. WE4F will incorporate the Regional Innovation Hub (RIH) model used in PAEGC and the Technical Assistance Facility developed under SWFF.  By combining these two successful key programmatic elements together, WE4F’s decentralized approach will put a stronger focus on improving local framework conditions for innovations and facilitating end-user financing. 

Steering Committee

WE4F is a joint international initiative of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the European Union (EU), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Government of the Netherlands, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

Maja Forslind

Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, Sweden

Maja Forslind is Programme Manager at the Unit for Global Cooperation on Environment, at Sida’s Department for International Organisations and Policy Support, primarily managing support to challenge funds within the fields of environment, climate change, resilience and innovation. She is co-leading Sida’s working group for challenge funds methods development. She has previously worked with developing new methods for Sida’s cooperation, dialogue and engagement strategies with the private sector. In Southeast Asia she has been responsible for Public Private Development Partnerships and other Sida support to international NGOs as well as multilateral organisations focusing on sustainable agriculture, inclusiveness in food- and agricultural value chains, and business and human rights. She holds a M.Sc. degree in Sustainable Enterprising from Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University and a B.Sc. in International Relations from Stockholm University.

Abdullahi Aress

Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, Sweden

Abdullahi Aress is peace building and development economics professional with extensive experience in peace and state-building, development economics, access to finance, Women’s economic empowerment and public sector reform in fragile environments to build strong, practical partnerships that support macro-economic stability, inclusive economic growth, use of country systems, strengthening public administration and state institutions.

Mr. Aress is currently a Senior Program Manager at Sida´s Unit for Globally Sustainable Economic Development, Department for International Organisations and Policy Support since 15th September 2021. Prior to taking over this portfolio, Mr. Aress was Senior Economist and Deputy Head of Sweden´s Development Cooperation with Somalia in the last five years. Between 2015-2016, Mr. Aress was Coordinator for Results strategy for Sweden’s international development cooperation in Sudan and South Sudan. Mr. Aress was seconded by the Swedish Government as Senior Ministerial Advisor and Aid Finance Specialist at the Ministry of Finance, Federal Government of Somalia between 2013 to 2015. He played a key role for the Ministry of finance for championing aid effectiveness, debt relief for Somalia as well as advising on key financial governance reforms and economic policies. Furthermore, Mr. Aress spearheaded and designed the introduction of an aid mapping system for Somalia, a system which is a valuable tool for the nation’s current aid architecture. Mr. Aress played a key role on behalf FGS in negotiating for the setting up several Multi-Partner Funds for Somalia such as, UN-MPTF and WB MPF as well as setting up the Financial Governance Committee (FGC).

Mr. Aress has immense experience on working with key global development partners, UN agencies, and multilateral financial institutions as well as designing and executing country strategies in complex fragile context such as Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan. Mr. Aress has worked at Sida since 2008 as a head of Unit as well as Policy Specialist and Senior Program Manager. 

Mr. Aress has worked for Swedish Government Agencies since 1998, where he held several managerial positions, including chief of staff, Director of Department and member of Board of Directors at Swedish Integration Agency 2001-2008. Mr. Aress has also been board member of the Swedish Red Cross (2008-2013) as well as the Swedish Research Council (2003-2008).

Dr. Ku McMahan

U.S. Agency for International Development, United States

Dr. Ku McMahan serves as Team Lead for Water and Energy for Food: A Grand Challenge for Development in the US Global Development Lab at USAID.
He received his Ph.D. in environmental sciences and an M.P.H. in environmental health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill under NSF and EPA STAR Fellowships. He received a B.A. in environmental sciences and policy. In addition, he developed a simple, low-cost water quality test for developing countries and emergency situations. Ku was recently a program executive officer for the USAID WA-WASH program in GLOWS and assistant professor of research at Florida International University.

Omer van Renterghem

Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Netherlands

Omer is working in the Inclusive Green Growth Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on water management. He is responsible for a number of programs, amongst these Securing Water for Food, the Valuing Water Initiative, and a strategic partnership on sustainable landscape management with WWF and IUCN. He also supports development of Netherlands water programs in Rwanda and Ethiopia.

Before joining the water cluster his focus was on environmental aspects of the broader sustainability agenda: green growth, natural capital accounting, and circular economy. He initiated the Initiative for Sustainable Landscapes (ISLA), focusing on the business case for integrated landscape management, and he was leading a project team on landscape approach. In addition, until recently, he was involved in the international Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).

Dr. Thomas Breuer

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), Germany

Dr. Thomas Breuer is the WE4F Programme Manager at GIZ. Thomas has recently returned from an expert position in Namibia where he was managing programmes in the areas of land reform, natural resource management, agriculture and urban development.

He holds a Ph.D. in agricultural economics and a diploma in geography from the University of Bonn. His previous project design and management responsibilities focused on the topic of renewable energies, agricultural trade, market and quality-oriented food business development and value chain development, agri-finance, private sector cooperation, farmer organisation and smallholder modernisation and policy advise for sustainable and future-resilient agri-food systems in Asia and Africa.

Thomas is based in Bonn, Germany, is married, father of two children and a smallholder forest farmer.


Nikki deBaroncelli

Senior Manager, USAID Secretariat Unit

Nikki currently serves as the USAID Secretariat Senior Manager. Prior to this role, she spent four years supporting the Technical Assistance (TA) Facility for the Securing Water for Food: Grand Challenge for Development (SWFF), both as a Program Manager through The Kaizen Company (Kaizen), and later as the SWFF TA Facility Chief of Party (October 2019 – April 2020). In addition to her work on SWFF, Nikki has led a diverse set of projects active in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia including the development of Kaizen’s My Health, My Life project in Zimbabwe, working closely with USAID staff to design and implement media products focused on breaking down message fatigue barriers related to health issues among adolescent girls and young women.

Dr. Rokia Goldmann

Deputy Program Manager, GIZ Secretariat Unit

Dr. Rokia Goldmann works in the WE4F Coordination Unit at GIZ as Head of the WE4F GIZ Secretariat Unit. She primarily supports the management, coordination and implementation of global programme activities in collaboration with the WE4F USAID Secretariat Unit. She received her Ph.D. in agricultural economics and social sciences from Humboldt-Universität Zu Berlin. She has been working in the field of development cooperation for almost 14 years, including managing, implementing and monitoring various projects in Africa. She has worked with international NGOs and as an independent consultant for consulting companies in the fields of food security, environment, climate change and the renewable energy and food nexus. Prior to joining GIZ’s renewable energy team in Germany, she was responsible for the Green Innovation Centre Programme for the Agriculture and Food Sector in Mali, which focuses on scaling up innovations in agricultural value chains.

Jatin Yadav

Manager, USAID Secretariat Unit

Manager for WE4F, Jatin Yadav has worked with as many as 20 innovators in developing markets. He has diagnosed and advised on varied innovation projects such as a unique gardening model in South Africa, a hydroponics entrepreneur in Kenya, and a circular economy NGO effort in India, among others. Jatin received his M.B.A. in social entrepreneurship and strategy from the Nottingham University Business School and his B.A in computer engineering.

Noémie Tokplen

Junior Specialist, GIZ Secretariat Unit

Noémie Tokplen works in the WE4F Coordination Unit at GIZ as a junior specialist in communications. She received a B.A. in language, culture and media studies from the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn and the Sorbonne Paris 4 and a M.A. in Intercultural Studies from the University Freiburg and the École normale supérieure de Lyon. She worked in the communication, campaigning and editorial departments of newspapers, television, international organizations and companies in France, Germany and the UK. At WE4F Noémie will be responsible
for internal and external communications as well as for event management.

Cassy Rodriguez

Donor Relations Manager, USAID Secretariat Unit

Cassy is the Donor Relations Manager for WE4F serving as a link between the Steering Committee and the USAID Secretariat. Prior to joining the program, Cassy served as the Program Specialist for the Securing Water for Food (SWFF) Grand Challenge supporting the USAID Team Lead and the SWFF Technical Assistance Facility. During her tenure at SWFF, Cassy conducted various monitoring and evaluation of implementation sites across Africa, S/SE Asia, and Latin America. Cassy holds an M.S. in International Development from New York University and is a Magna Cum Laude B.A graduate in Psychology/Anthropology from Stony Brook University.

Katie Bailey

Communications and Knowledge Management Coordinator, USAID Secretariat Unit

In partnership with the WE4F GIZ Secretariat Unit, Katie manages the global communications and knowledge management strategies and oversees the hubs’ communications and knowledge management activities. She received her M.A. in Environmental Policy at Middlebury Institute of International Studies and her B.A. in Political Science and French at Hood College. She has three years of experience in supporting, developing, and leading communications and knowledge activities for agriculture, energy, and water actors in domestic and international settings.

Johannes Muntau

Technical Advisor, GIZ Secretariat Unit

Johannes is the Technical Advisor for WE4F GIZ Secretariat Unit; he focuses on global capacity development and accompanying research. He has an M.S. in Environmental Engineering from the Technical University of Darmstadt. where he focused on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM), and development cooperation.

McKenzie Horwitz

Monitoring & Evaluation Specialist, USAID Secretariat Unit

McKenzie Horwitz serves as the Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist for the WE4F USAID Secretariat Unit. In partnership with the WE4F GIZ Secretariat Unit, her role includes the design and management of the WE4F M&E framework and systems, as well as overseeing the implementation of monitoring, evaluation, and learning activities across all USAID-supported Regional Innovation Hubs.

She received a M.A. in International Economics and Development from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C. where she specialized in quantitative methods and economic theory. She received a B.A. in Economics and International Studies from Texas A&M University. Prior to joining WE4F, she supported the creation of a data quality framework applied to national WASH initiatives in India.

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