Water for Food

Water for Food Global Conference speakers emphasize partnership roles, responsibilities to make lasting impact

May 2, 2016

“I’m an incredible believer in the power of partnerships,” said plenary speaker Pat Mulroy, of the Brookings Institute. The value of catalytic collaborations – the theme of the 2016 Global Water for Food Conference – was evident throughout the second day.

Mulroy described the incredible partnership that led to preventing devastating water shortages in southwestern U.S. in 2015. The complex partnership among the seven states and Mexico that make up the Colorado River watershed was forged over many years and led to agreements that continue to conserve water for the millions of people who rely on the river.

Shifting to sub-Saharan Africa, Melissa Ho, of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, a US foreign aid agency, discussed water’s role in development. Though vital, water is often underestimated, she said. But she’s also encouraged by the increasing private sector interest in investing in agricultural technology. Many opportunities are ripe for public-private partnerships to help develop Africa, including infrastructure and storage development, capacity strengthening and financial services.

Achieving long-term sustainable impacts often requires transforming entire systems, said Jeffrey Raikes, co-founder of the Raikes Foundation. Individual innovations or efforts are unlikely to achieve that transformation, and Raikes challenged WFI and others to see how individual solutions can be aggregated for long-term sustainable change.

He described the impact what he termed “catalytic philanthropy” can have on sustainable transformation. Catalytic philanthropy leverages the limited resources available to solving complex social problems by stepping in when neither the private sector nor the public sector are able or willing to intervene. Scaling and sustaining any philanthropic effort requires public and private partnerships.

Peter McCornick, WFI executive-director elect, also emphasized sustainability and partnerships in overcoming challenges. Water is becoming more recognized as a central component to many of the world’s complex challenges, he said. That breadth speaks to the importance of multi-sectorial partnerships. WFI is well positioned to help catalyze those collaborations on local and global levels.

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