Water for Food

Happy New Year from the Water for Food Institute!

January 21, 2016

Working with our numerous Faculty Fellows and recently appointed Global Fellows, we enjoyed a year of tremendous progress in 2015, both globally and locally, and look forward to many more advancements and changes in 2016.

Our work around the globe increased dramatically in 2015. For example, we initiated a USAID-funded project with several key partners to develop a drought monitoring center for the Middle East and North Africa region, as part of which WFI will help develop a real-time, satellite-based daily evapotranspiration product that will be used to create an early drought warning system. The Global Yield Gap and Water Productivity Atlas grew significantly, and in late 2015 presented new data showing that farmers in ten African countries achieve only 20 to 30 percent of the potential yields in their country, suggesting that tremendous improvements in food security are possible. The institute and UNL launched a joint initiative with India’s Department of Science and Technology and the Indo-US Science & Technology Forum that will bring exceptional PhD students and postdocs to Nebraska to carry out advanced research in water science and engineering. And we expanded our presence and visibility in key global forums, including the 7th World Water Forum in South Korea and the World Water Week in Stockholm, where we co-convened a popular session on water governance.

Closer to our base in Nebraska, we initiated research activities with several partners on groundwater policy and management in the High Plains, funded by the Economic Research Service of the USDA; successfully completed an exciting collaboration with the Nebraska State Historical Society to develop a joint oral history project from the founding leaders of the Nebraska Resource Districts (view the website and listen to podcasts at http://nrdstories.org); conducted a 3-day workshop on advances in understanding the Water-Energy-Food nexus; partnered with the USDA and EPA to host a 3-day national conference on water quality trading; co-sponsored a national symposium on the effects of Arctic Climate change on Midwest agriculture; and completed our first WFI Policy Report on Nebraska’s pioneering Natural Resources Districts. The Nebraska Water Center held its annual symposium at the UNL Law College, produced an 8-lecture seminar series, and hosted a highly successful Water Tour focused on the Republican River basin in Nebraska and Colorado for 65 participants.

We are pleased with these accomplishments, but even more excited about our plans for 2016, which will draw on our experience in our first five years (as captured in our Five Year Report outlining key achievements of the institute’s operations from 2010-2015) and be guided by our new Strategic Plan for 2015-2020, which we completed late last year. Our office is already over-capacity with staff, students, post-docs and visiting faculty, so we are expanding our space to include more offices and a collaborative work space. Plans are well underway for the 2016 Water for Food Global Conference to be held April 24-26 at Nebraska Innovation Campus in Lincoln. We have an outstanding line-up of speakers and sessions focusing on the power of public-private partnerships to achieve innovation solutions to water and food security.

As announced early last year, I will be stepping down in the near future and a new ED to lead the institution is close to being selected. The WFI is on firm footing and taking the next steps to ensure that all children around the globe, and their children for generations, will have the food and water security needed to live productive and fulfilling lives. It is a huge and complex challenge, but one we are dedicated to addressing.

All the work described would not be possible without the strong support of the Robert B.
Daugherty Foundation, the hard work and engagement of all our Faculty Fellows, the commitment of the leadership of the University of Nebraska, our partners and stakeholders in Nebraska and across the global, and our amazing staff. Our thanks to one and all.

I encourage you to support our work by engaging with our social media, subscribing to the Digest e-newsletter and donating to the Water for Food Institute through the NU Foundation. It will take all of us to build a sustainable water and food secure world.

Roberto Lenton
Founding Executive Director

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