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USAID's Water and Energy for Food Challenge

Water and Energy for Food Glick

“What we can do from a government perspective is offer seed capital that then gets catalyzed by investors,” said Deputy Administrator Glick.

USAID's Water and Energy for Food Challenge
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For more than a half century since its founding in 1961, the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, fulfilled its mission by sending to developing countries material assistance like food and medicine. When USAID was created, three out of every four dollars that went from America to the developing world were government money, said USAID Administrator Mark Green. “These days, that number is less than 1 out of every 10 dollars.”

“Global aid needs are many and government funding will never be enough,” said USAID Deputy Administrator Bonnie Glick. “So, we have to work with the private sector."

“What we can do from a government perspective is offer seed capital that then gets catalyzed by investors,” said Deputy Administrator Glick.

Yet there is more to it than just funding. “We recognize that we do not have a monopoly on the good solutions,” said Ms. Glick. “There are great solutions that are generated everywhere on earth.”

Take, for example, the five-year Securing Water for Food, or SWFF, and Powering Agriculture Energy Grand Challenges, which enrolled 80 innovators from more than 40 countries to develop more food with less water and use renewable energy more efficiently.

The SWFF innovators have helped 6.3 million farmers and their families produce nearly 6 million tons of food. They leveraged more than $20 million in additional funding through more than 300 partnerships, which help reduce the need for future donor assistance for these innovations. They have also generated $6.5 million in sales, demonstrating profitability, demand in the market, and sustainability.

That was just the first step. In late October, Deputy Administrator Glick announced that USAID and its partners, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of The Netherlands, will dedicate 35 million dollars to kick off the Water and Energy for Food Challenge.

This initiative, a logical expansion of the two earlier challenges, will increase sustainable agriculture, food security, and climate resilience in developing countries and emerging markets. It will focus on the poor and women by investing in small enterprise. “We expect that that capital will increase. That will crowd [fund] an investment capital in at around 25 million dollars, and then in the subsequent years, it will scale up,” said Deputy Administrator Glick.

“We're going to encourage organizations, individuals to submit to us concept papers about how you would visualize a solution to the problems that we see around the world, or in an individual country, that are at the nexus of water, energy and food.” For more information, visit

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