Water for Food

Daugherty Water for Food Institute preparing for next phase of development, leadership transition

LINCOLN, Neb. — The Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute at the University of Nebraska (DWFI) is entering its second five-year phase of development and 2016 will bring a planned leadership transition.

“When the University of Nebraska appointed Roberto Lenton as founding executive director of the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute in 2012, we knew it was for a three to five year term. But, we were willing to accept this timeline, because we knew his experience and talents would establish an internationally recognized institute, and provide an amazing opportunity for the next leader. Roberto has done a fantastic job of building the institute to this point,” said James Linder, M.D., University of Nebraska interim president. “We are well-positioned for the future and I thank Roberto for his leadership of the Institute through its start-up phase.”

“I am delighted by the enormous progress Roberto has made to establish DWFI on a very solid basis as an important and recognized player in the field of water for food — one of the most important global challenges of the 21st century,” said Jeff Raikes, co-founder of the Raikes Foundation and chair of the DWFI board of directors. “The institute now has an excellent staff and core leadership team who have initiated an impactful set of research, policy and education programs, working in close collaboration with DWFI Faculty Fellows across the university system.”

DWFI recently moved into its new offices at Nebraska Innovation Campus. “Roberto and his team have developed strong partnerships throughout Nebraska and around the world with public and private sector organizations. The research projects underway are discovering new ways of producing more food with less strain on our limited water resources. The institute exemplifies the kind of innovative approaches and collaborations we are working to build at Nebraska Innovation Campus, the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and across the University of Nebraska,” said Ronnie Green, vice president and Harlan Vice Chancellor of the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

In recognition of progress to date, the Robert B. Daugherty Charitable Foundation has approved the second 5-year tranche of a $50 million, 15-year grant awarded in 2010. “When I was appointed Founding Executive Director,” said Lenton, “I was — and remain — very excited about the opportunity to position DWFI to successfully implement its global mission of ensuring a food and water secure future for our growing population. I have assured the board of directors and university leadership that I am committed to facilitating an effective transition and will remain an active and involved executive director until I hand over DWFI leadership to my successor — and will assist the new director beyond that time if she or he sees fit.”

Lenton has built a strong staff infrastructure for the institute by hiring excellent leadership in the director of research, director of policy, director of the Nebraska Water Center and director of communications positions. Just a few of the key DWFI accomplishments include:

  • Engaging 75 Faculty Fellows from all four campuses — UNL, UNK, UNO and UNMC — who are pursuing water for food related research projects in Nebraska, nationally and internationally.
  • Developing working partnerships with leading institutions around the world, such as FAO, ICAR, USAID, IWMI, CGIAR, World Water Council and other universities.
  • Producing six leading global conferences on Water for Food, which have drawn thousands of experts from dozens of countries to share research and concepts for long-term solutions to water and food security.
  • Supporting development of the Global Yield Gap and Water Productivity Atlas, providing data gathering in South America, South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa to identify areas of potential yield improvement.
  • Creating a double master’s degree program in Advanced Water Management for Food production with UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education in Delft, the Netherlands.
  • Launching innovative research projects with partnerships in Tanzania, India, China and Brazil, as well as with the NRDs and farmers in Nebraska.

The University of Nebraska will convene a search committee and engage a search firm for hiring Lenton’s successor. Details of the search process will be posted on the DWFI website as soon as they are available. ““The important work happening at the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute is one of many things that attracted me to the University of Nebraska. We can and should play a leading role in ensuring food security for people around the world,” said University of Nebraska President-Designate Dr. Hank Bounds, who begins his tenure April 13. “I look forward to working with Roberto and Daugherty Institute leaders on an international search process to find the Institute’s next director. We have much work ahead, but the Institute has a bright future and I am excited to be a part of it.”

Lenton will remain at the University of Nebraska for some time following his departure from the DWFI post. “I am thoroughly enjoying my time as founding director of DWFI and am deeply grateful for the opportunity to live in Nebraska and to be a part of the University of Nebraska community,” Lenton stated. “It is truly a pleasure to work with so many wonderful colleagues at the University and across the state and the globe, and I really look forward to continuing to do so,” he added.


The Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute at the University of Nebraska was founded in 2010 to address the global challenge of achieving food security with less stress on water resources through improved water management in agricultural and food systems. We are committed to ensuring a water and food secure world while maintaining the use of water for other human and environmental needs.

The University of Nebraska has invested in four interdisciplinary, University-wide institutes — including the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute — that leverage talent and research-based expertise from across the University of Nebraska system to focus on complex state, national and global challenges.

Learn more at waterforfood.nebraska.edu

Contact: Molly Nance Director of Communications and Public Relations Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute (DWFI) mnance@nebraska.edu 402-472-5512

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