Ensuring water and food security for our growing world is an audacious goal – exactly what Bob Daugherty sought to achieve by creating the Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute (DWFI) at the University of Nebraska nearly 10 years ago. He, along with leaders and supporters within the University of Nebraska, the state and well beyond, understood that a collective and committed effort on wise water management was essential to producing enough food to feed the world while sustaining our valuable and limited water resources.
For decades, many dedicated people around the world have striven to overcome the challenges of ensuring water and food security. There isn’t a “silver bullet” that will quickly address the complex, interconnected and evolving issues, including climate change, rising demand for more water-intensive foods, soil and water degradation, conflict over and competition for water resources, and, in many developing countries, the low levels of investment in supporting facilities and services.
In collaboration with our dedicated partners, DWFI is making valuable contributions to meeting these challenges. As you’ll read in this year’s annual report, the institute is conducting innovative research, informing policy, convening stakeholders, sharing knowledge, cultivating new leaders and communicating our work to millions of stakeholders across the U.S. and around the world. Most importantly, our work is advancing our mission to ensure food and water security for nearly 10 billion people by 2050.
The progress towards these outcomes was fittingly demonstrated at the 2019 Water for Food Global Conference, which focused on innovation in water and food security. More than 400 partners – including farmers, scientists, companies, philanthropists, investors, government agencies and nonprofit organizations – convened to explore practical actions to help stakeholders build more resilient, water-smart and productive agricultural and food systems. New partnerships and ideas generated during the conference sessions and networking are now under development.
Here in Nebraska and neighboring states, it has been a year of far too much water, dominated by historic floods and a wetter-than-usual planting season that left many acres fallow. The impacts on people and communities, infrastructure, and crops and livestock have been enormous. Much has been done to restore the affected communities, though full recovery will take much longer. Stakeholders across the state are reflecting on lessons learned and exploring ways to strengthen the resilience of communities, including bolstering water and food systems.
The results from the recently completed Nebraska Water Productivity report reflect remarkable improvements in yield per drop of water used (water productivity or WP) for crops, livestock and biofuels over the past three decades. This underscores the importance of long-term investments in crop and livestock breeding, enhanced management systems and new technologies. The challenge is how to sustainably achieve similar water productivity advancements in other agricultural landscapes.
With our friends at the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources (IANR) and a number of Faculty Fellows and partners, we have catalyzed our efforts to better understand and address water quality challenges here in Nebraska and further afield. A notable example is the Bazile Groundwater Management Area (BGMA) in Northeast Nebraska, where we are working with four Natural Resources Districts (NRDs) to mitigate and manage nitrate contamination.
DWFI is part of a strong alliance of international partners working to expand development of local solutions for irrigated agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa and other emerging regions of the world. These collaborations amplify our individual strengths and create powerful new approaches to achieving water and food security. Directly contributing to this ambitious initiative, the institute and IANR are assessing existing irrigated agriculture business models in Rwanda. The results from this research are expected to inform new investments in sustainably scaling intensive agriculture in other sub-Saharan countries.
While it will still take time to fully achieve our vision of a world without hunger or water scarcity, we are witnessing accelerated progress. As we close in on the institute’s 10th anniversary in 2020, we are pleased to share the impacts we’ve made. We greatly appreciate the support of our Board of Directors, staff, University of Nebraska leadership, Faculty Fellows, Global Fellows, International Advisory Panel, donors and friends who help make these important breakthroughs possible.