Less water for more food

USAID and SIDA aims to find proven innovations that deals with using water more efficiently, especially for food production. Photo by: Global Water Partnership / CC BY-NC-SA

Many areas around the globe are running out of water, prompting a plethora of doomsday scenarios. But within the aid community, the trend has driven organizations to think more seriously of ways to use this resource more efficiently, especially for food production.

In a bid to find those solutions, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency joined up for another challenge, which they launched last month at World Water Week in Stockholm.

Later this month, “Securing Water for Food: A Grand Challenge for Development” is officially opening its doors to applicants, from innovators to entrepreneurs, around the globe.

The initiative, though, is not about finding novel but still-to-be-tested ideas, but rather seeks proven innovations that can be transferred to other countries, particularly developing and emerging economies, through local partnerships.

The upcoming call for proposal will reflect changes to the original program description, based on 150 comments from 30 countries received by USAID and Sida.

Match funding

According to the draft concept, applicants are required to provide match funding: 40 percent during the validation stage, or innovations verified in at least one market that will be tested and adapted in a different setting, and 60 percent for the commercial growth or scaling up stage. The matched funds may come from the applicants’ own pockets but cannot be from other donors or non market-based sources. Grant funding — $100,000 to $500,000 for the validation stage and $500,000 to $3 million for the commercial growth stage — will only be awarded once innovators meet agreed financial and technical milestones.

Following the monthlong consultation process, the requirements for matching funds were “revisited,” a USAID spokesperson told Devex. There will be “lower requirements overall” and partial in-kind matching will be allowed during the validation stage.

The program, the USAID official added, will also have “greater emphasis on applicant understanding of the local market, including demand, enabling environment, and partners.”

According to the official, the program will accept concept notes through an online platform on its website beginning Nov. 27 through Jan. 17, 2014. A panel will then choose the top 150 applicants and ask them to submit a full application, through the same platform, in March 2014.

USAID and Sida are allotting $15 million of the total $25 million envisioned for “Securing Water for Food: A Grand Challenge for Development” to this first round of grants.

‘Acceleration support’

Aside from providing funding, the founding partners promise to offer what they call “acceleration support” to help winners overcome bottlenecks in starting and sustaining their operations in a particular development point, whether in business development, market partnerships or investment facilitation.

“What’s significant about this [grand challenge] is not just the partnering and the desire to transfer proven technologies to another country … What’s also significant is the commitment that Sida and USAID have to really stay with the entity that receives the award,” Christian Holmes, global water coordinator at USAID, said during an address at a World Water Week 2013 side event.

Holmes added: “So it’s not like a partnership where we’ve gone into a partnership and we’re kind of standing back and you’re working, but rather we’re engaged in the sense of helping you accelerate your progress in the developing country into which you operate.”

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About the author

  • Eliza Villarino

    Eliza Villarino currently manages one of today’s leading publications on humanitarian aid, global health and international development, the weekly GDB. At Devex, she has helped grow a global newsroom, with talented journalists from major development hubs such as Washington, D.C, London and Brussels. She regularly writes about innovations in global development.