Water for Food


Addressing Ethiopia’s drought-induced humanitarian crisis

By Patrice C. McMahon, Water for Food Institute Faculty Fellow and associate professor in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Department of Political Science Like many African countries, Ethiopia is currently experiencing its worst drought in almost a century. Ten million people are in need of food aid, while more than 75 percent of the population is… [Read More]

UNL researcher applies expertise in aquifer recharge to arid regions

Since 2013, University of Nebraska-Lincoln hydrogeologist and Water for Food Institute Faculty Fellow Vitaly Zlotnik has led efforts at UNL to develop solutions to complex water issues in the Middle East, a region rife with political conflict and environmental challenges. He provided a keynote address at the 2016 International Water Conference at Sultan Qaboos University… [Read More]

Growing the gains and pruning the pains in producing Africa’s food

Why go gaga about GYGA – the Global Yield Gap Atlas? By: Njeri Okono, communications manager for Africa, International Center for Maize and Wheat Improvement (CIMMYT) This blog originally appeared on the CIMMYT website Dec. 30, 2015. Because GYGA is a crucial pointer to where the greatest gains in food production can be made, and… [Read More]

COP 21: A historical achievement and a legacy for future generations

By climatologist Donald A. Wilhite, Water for Food Institute Faculty Fellow and professor in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln School of Natural Resources The signing of the International Climate Agreement at the 21st annual U.N. climate conference (COP21) in Paris Dec. 13, by 195 countries represents a historical moment and one that we should all be… [Read More]

2015 Global Agricultural Productivity Report shared at World Food Prize event

For the second year in a row, the rate of global agricultural productivity growth continues to stagnate, says a report by the Global Harvest Initiative (GHI) released during the World Food Prize conference in Des Moines, Iowa, October 15. The report, with technical support from the Water for Food Institute, states that global agricultural productivity… [Read More]

15th World Water Congress highlights water as a resource for global development

June 25, 2015


The World Water Congress, organized by the International Water Resources Association (IWRA), is one of the most important global events in the water field. Held every three years since 1973, the Congress provides a single forum for experts in water-related fields from around the world. It allows participants to share experiences and to present new knowledge, research, and developments related to water resources. Read More

FAO, Water for Food Institute publish global yield gap analysis report

June 23, 2015


To feed a world population that is expected to exceed nine billion by 2050 requires an estimated 60 percent increase over current agricultural productivity. Closing the gap between actual and potential crop yield is critical to achieve this goal.

A new report published jointly by the U.N. Food & Agriculture Organization and the Water for Food Institute at the University of Nebraska reviews current methods to assess the productivity of crops and cropping systems worldwide. Read More

Global perspective on drought and water management

May 4, 2015


Water for Food Director of Policy Nick Brozovic led a presentation on “Coping with Drought – Institutional Innovation in Water Management” at the Swedish Royal Academy of Agriculture and Forestry in Stockholm, Sweden, in March. Read More

Perspectives on Achieving a Water and Food Secure Future

April 29, 2015


At the 7th World Water Forum in South Korea, many of the world’s top researchers and leaders in the water and food sectors gathered to share ideas and progress toward ensuring a water and secure future. With an expected population growth of 10 billion by 2050, our food production will need to nearly double to meet global demands. Read More

Partnerships pave the way to innovative solutions for water and food security

April 23, 2015

stream sampling (2)

We need a bigger table. There will be over 200,000 more people at the global dinner table tonight than were there last night. By 2050, there will be nearly 10 billion people to feed on this planet. But our population is not only growing, it’s growing wealthier, with increasing demand for food — especially meat and dairy products, requiring more agricultural production and water use. As a result of population increases and rising incomes, total food demand will likely double by 2050 (Earth Policy Institute, 2014). Read More

World Water Day 2015 – Managing our Water Future: Innovation for Water and Sustainable Development

March 22, 2015


Water is arguably our most precious natural resource, and particularly vulnerable to the impact of climate change, as well as to the increasing demand for food as our global population grows to 9.6 billion by 2050. Economies and incomes are growing, fueling a revolution in global agriculture that will likely result in nearly a doubling of demand for food, feed, fiber and fuel in the next 35 years.

Currently 70 percent of extracted freshwater worldwide is used for agriculture production. In the absence of progress, water use for agriculture is estimated to grow to 89 percent by 2050,[1] which is clearly untenable given other critical water demands. We must take action to improve how we use, conserve and manage our water supply so that future generations have the opportunity to access sufficient and sustainable sources of food and agriculture products. Read More

World Water Day – info and resources

World Water Day has been observed on 22 March since 1993 when the United Nations General Assembly declared 22 March as “World Day for Water”.Read More

Groundwater in the Mekong Delta

November 26, 2014

Saigon River

The Mekong River is one of the world’s largest rivers. Its headwaters are in China and it runs south through Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and finally, Vietnam, where it empties into the sea through the Mekong Delta, a complex network of smaller rivers. Known as the “Nine Dragons Delta” in Vietnam, the Mekong Delta is home to almost 20 million people whose livelihoods depend on fisheries, aquaculture, and agriculture. Despite the abundance of surface water in the area, there is large-scale groundwater pumping for food production, industry, and household needs, and the number of co-existing and connected groundwater management challenges is staggering. Read More

The Awakening to the Water for Food Challenge

November 12, 2014

Suat Irmak

As I write this blog post, I am coming off of a very strong and high-quality dialogue of the 2014 Global Water for Food Conference convened by the University of Nebraska Daugherty Water for Food Institute and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This was the 6th Global Water for Food Conference, but the first to be held outside of Lincoln, Nebraska. It was a rousing success with approximately 275 leaders from 32 countries around the world dialoguing for three days on the thematic topic of “Harnessing the Data Revolution” around water sustainability in agriculture and food. The conference was also supported with sponsorship from Monsanto, Syngenta, the Daugherty Foundation, the Global Water Initiative, and the Nebraska Corn Board. Read More

A New Atlas to Shape How We Feed the World

November 5, 2014

Ken Cassman

Participating in the 2014 World Food Prize Week in Des Moines, Iowa has me thinking about water and how we can best use this scarce resource to produce more food.

The world’s population is expected to reach 9 to 10 billion by 2050, causing a doubling in food demand. And not only is the population is growing, it’s also becoming more prosperous. As incomes rise, people have the means to eat more meat and dairy products, which require much more grain. At the same time, corn, soybeans and other crops are being diverted to biofuel production, which places additional pressure on food supply. Urban expansion often comes at the expense of prime agricultural land, with only drier, less fertile land to replace it. The result of these trends is an escalating need for agriculture to produce more food, feed, fiber and fuel on a limited supply of good farmland, and intense competition for water resources. Read More

“Big Data” is Critical to a Water and Food Secure World

November 3, 2014

Ronnie Green

Water, data, and agricultural productivity were on the agenda at the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute’s 6th Annual Conference in Seattle, Washington, earlier this month. (The Water for Food Institute is a consultative partner of the Global Harvest Initiative.) Co-hosted by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the conference attracted more than 250 participants from 25 countries. In his welcoming remarks, Roberto Lenton, founding executive director of the Daugherty Water for Food Institute, told attendees, “the data revolution can help with the productivity and sustainability of farming systems, both large and small, around the world.” Read More

Data one part of harnessing the data revolution

October 22 2014

Ken Cassman

The Water for Food Global Conference in Seattle has concluded, and we’re heading back to Nebraska with new ideas and fresh perspectives on the ways in which data has the opportunity to improve water and food security.

But the data itself is only one piece of harnessing the data revolution, as experts made clear throughout three days of presentations and panel discussions. Read More

5 Data Tools Used to Harness the Data Revolution

October 21 2014

Ken Cassman

The second day of the 2014 Water for Food Global Conference has wrapped. Today, the discussion shifted toward specific tools being used around the world to Harness the Data Revolution. Read More

6 Ways Big Data Helps Improve Global Water and Food Security

October 20 2014

Jeff Raikes

Jeff Raikes, former CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and co-founder of the Raikes Foundation, said it’s not hyperbole to say that global society is experiencing a data revolution. But that the revolution has yet to reach agriculture.

It’s not surprising the former Microsoft Corp. executive believes in the power of technology, and in particular Big Data. But it’s his experience as the son of a farmer to focus on how technology can help farmers increase yields, improve their livelihoods and collectively meet the food production needs of the world’s people. Read More

Water for Food Global Conference kicks off in Seattle

October 19, 2014

Rolando Flores

The sixth annual Water for Food Global Conference is underway in Seattle, Wash. USA. More than 250 participants and 23 countries are represented at this year’s event, which is focused on the use of data to improve global water and food security. Read More

2014 Water for Food Global Conference Speakers

October 16, 2014


Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute at the University of Nebraska

October 13th, 2014



The Elephant in the Room

May 27, 2014

Roberto Lenton, Founding Executive Director for the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute, introduced the “Water for Food” panel discussion at Water for Our Future, an event helping shape the agenda for the 7th World Water Forum. Photo credit: ©WWF/McNamara.

Last week, I had the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion on water for food at Water for our Future, a lead-up event to the triennial World Water Forum to be held April 2015. The lively panel discussion was wide-ranging and informative – and to me, at least, very encouraging. I was particularly cheered by three aspects of the discussion. Read More


Nebraska-based 2013 Water for Food Conference presenters, their location and topic

April 9, 2014

Nebraska-based 2013 Water for Food Conference presenters, their location and topic


Climate Panel warns of food and water shortages: DWFI already tackling that challenge

April 4, 2014

drought (2)

This week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its fifth report and connected – much more clearly than in past reports — climate change with risks to global food production. More dramatic slowdowns in production are likely, the report warned, raising the specter of greater food scarcity at a time when population growth and rising incomes demand even more food.

Though it receives little attention, lack of water is a major reason crop production is suffering global challenges. Water shortages already occur in many of the world’s major food production areas; droughts, floods and other extreme events are on the rise globally; and some 700 million people already live in water-stressed areas. Those numbers will worsen in the years to come as populations and incomes increase and climate change intensifies. Read More

Norman Borlaug bucked conventional wisdom, and inspired a generation

March 25, 2014


Years ago, I found myself high in the Andes, hours from anywhere, at a research station to visit barley plots. While waiting for my Peruvian host, I wandered over to a small plaque commemorating the station’s opening. And there, prominently displayed, was Norman Borlaug’s name. He’d given the dedication speech at this remote research station years earlier.

I shouldn’t have been surprised. Norman Borlaug touched people’s lives in all corners of the world. And while he was a great scientist widely recognized as the father of the Green Revolution, the 1970s agricultural movement that broadly expanded food production, he was also a modest man who gave tremendous energy and enthusiasm to training and supporting others, whom he called “revolutionaries.” Read More

Celebrating World Water Day: Thinking Broadly, Acting Specifically

March 21, 2014


At World Water Week in Stockholm last September, I participated in a session designed to foster a dialog between senior and young professionals. I was, needless to say, in the “senior” category. We’d been tasked with discussing the water/food/energy “Nexus Approach” and were given a set of questions in advance. The lively conversation raised many interesting points. It also exposed a fundamental difference in thinking that helps illuminate a debate I’ve seen intensifying in development circles.

As World Water Day and its water and energy theme are celebrated around the world tomorrow, it is timely to reflect on ways to approach nexuses in ways that are practical and expansive, rather than restrictive. Read More

2013 Water for Food Conference Highlights

March 11th, 2014


view video

Proceedings of the 2013 Water for Food Conference now available

March 5, 2014

WFI812 Proceedings FINAL-1_Page_01

DWFI has launched The Proceedings of the 2013 Water for Food Conference. The report summarizes the presentations and discussions that took place when a diverse array of more than 450 experts and practitioners from 24 countries assembled to explore the theme: Too Hot, Too Wet, Too Dry: Building Resilient Agroecosystems.

The 2013 Conference focused on climate change and variability and what can be done to adapt to changing climatic conditions. As DWFI Director Roberto Lenton noted in the Proceedings’ preface: “…the message was clear: climate change is real and the scientific evidence is compelling. We urgently need to find better ways of mitigating and adapting to floods, droughts and the effects of climate extremes.” Read more

2013 Water for Food Conference presenters, countries represented and their topic

February 26, 2014

February Infographic06-01

Save the date for the 2014 Global Water for Food Conference

February 6th, 2014

view video

Q&A with Ken Cassman: Study upends long-held food security assumptions

January 17, 2014


You hear it all the time in agricultural policy and research discussions: yields for the world’s major cereal crops will continue marching steadily upward. In fact, yields in many parts of the world have already plateaued and the relative rate of increase everywhere else is declining, says Ken Cassman, Robert B. Daugherty Water Food Institute Fellow and University of Nebraska-Lincoln agronomist.

In a study recently published in the journal Nature Communications, Cassman and UNL colleagues Patricio Grassini and Kent Eskridge suggest the challenge to feed the world is even more daunting than previously thought.

We spoke with Cassman about their findings and what it means for the future of global food security. Cassman leads an international research effort to create the Global Yield Gap and Water Productivity Atlas, an easily accessible web-based platform to estimate exploitable gaps in yield and water productivity of the world’s major food crops. Read More

University of Nebraska Logo. Visit the University of Nebraska homepage.
Sign up for our e-newsletter. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Visit our YouTube Channel. Follow us on Instagram. Visit us on Flickr. Follow us on Linkedin. Copyright © 2018 · University of Nebraska Board of Regents.