The Securing Water for Food programme, co-funded by the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) is intended to fund innovators and help their businesses take root in countries where the technology is desperately needed.
“In a finite biosphere, solutions to pressing water challenges require new thinking and innovative financing,” Swedish Minister for International Development Cooperation Gunilla Carlsson said in a statement.
“Through a catalytic use of aid, Securing Water for Food will be able to capture and support the implementation of innovative ideas and new technologies for better water efficiency and sustainable development.”
Therese Sjömander-Magnusson, a water expert at Sida, emphasized the importance of efficient water use in agriculture.
“Producing more food with less water is critical. With the right technology we think we can half the amount of water that is used to produce food,” she said in a statement.
The initiative, announced on the opening day of World Water Week in Stockholm, seeks to fund “the best technological innovations and business models from around the world” so they can be applied in developing and emerging economies.
USAID Global Water Coordinator Chris Holmes explained that water scarcity is a growing problem.
“Almost three billion people on the planet right now live in areas impacted by water scarcity,” he told AFP.
“We want to take technology that has already proven it works and use the grant money to overcome hurdles to get it into countries that no one has bothered or been able to get into, like Sub-Saharan Africa.”
Grants, expected to range from $250,000 to a million dollars for winning proposals, will be awarded in categories such as improving water reuse and countering intrusion of salt water into rivers, streams, deltas or underground aquifers.
“It is not just putting up cash; it is making a commitment that we will work closely with them to overcome obstacles in a developing country to try to build out a new technology,” Holmes said.
Water scarcity affects more than 40 percent of the world’s population, and approximately 70 percent of fresh water is used for agriculture, according to USAID.
“Water scarcity and its impact on food security affect everyone on the planet,” said USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah.
“By harnessing the expertise and creativity of the world’s brightest innovators, we can tackle this critical challenge with new thinking and partnerships.”
USAID and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency will begin accepting grant proposals in early November.
Information about the challenge grant programme was available online at securingwaterforfood.org.
“I am really excited about this,” Holmes said. “I really think this is something that is going to bear some fruit.”