The Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute was founded with an audacious goal: to ensure water and food security for our growing world – a world that will include nearly 10 billion people by 2050. How does one approach such a mammoth global issue with complications from climate change, political and civil conflicts, degrading water quality and soil health, competing demands on water resources and a host of other challenges? By not going it alone.
This year, we were reminded of the complexity of this challenge as droughts and floods impacted important food-producing regions of the world, increasing the number of people living with food insecurity. Also, the disruptions of global agricultural markets have prompted renewed interest in diversified forms and sources of food. These issues present opportunities to produce the nutritious food we need with less stress on our water resources.
DWFI is comprised of a talented staff who bring their own strengths, experience and drive to our mission. We leverage the expertise of more than 110 Faculty Fellows across all four of the University of Nebraska’s campuses, along with the perspectives of our Global Fellows and International Advisory Panel. We collaborate with dozens of governmental agencies, non-profits, businesses and other academic institutions. And, of course, we listen closely to the farmers and water managers who are doing the work of feeding our world and protecting our precious water resources. One highlight of the year was a visit to Bahia, Brazil, where DWFI leaders, Fellows and Nebraska farmers shared their insights from a hands-on perspective, and also learned about innovations from our Brazilian counterparts.These connections are building a network of innovative solutions to achieving higher yields on existing farmland and effectively managing water so that every drop is being used to its fullest potential. Through our network of effective partnerships, we have achieved productive outcomes in several significant projects this year:
- The World Bank invited us to co-host and produce an international forum on farmer-led irrigation, which led to the development of a joint statement of support among many governmental, non-profit and private industry partners to advance irrigation solutions;
- The Foundation for Food and Agriculture selected DWFI among a short list of public-private partners to develop a $10 million Irrigation Innovation Consortium (IIC) focused on the advancement of new technologies and management approaches for irrigated landscapes;
- Together with the Institute for Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, we conducted research on innovative tools and management practices for irrigation developments in Nebraska, Brazil and Rwanda;
- Our staff and Faculty Fellows have advanced knowledge through numerous published articles and papers. This includes a new report showing how farmers’ irrigation choices – both individually and at large scale – change in response to drought to increase the efficiency of water use without negatively affecting crop yields;
- We’re growing the next generation of water and agriculture leaders through our University of Nebraska student research support program; implementing the first Global SEEDS program (Service, Engagement, Entrepreneurship, Development and Sustainability), an undergraduate learning community based in the Massengale Residential Center; and, a masters-level program on water use in partnership with IHE Delft;
- Our work with the National Drought Mitigation Center and others is helping develop and implement a drought monitoring and management system for the acutely water scarce Middle East and North Africa region.
Peter G. McCornick, PhD, PE, D.WRE