The water-energy-food nexus represents a $5 trillion consumer market, millions of livelihoods, and the source of all food that people around the world eat. Agriculture is a primary factor in both climate change mitigation and adaptation measures, as agriculture uses 70 percent of all freshwater withdrawals, and accounts for 30 percent of global energy use and 23 percent of net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Women smallholders and other 'base of the pyramid’ farmers are uniquely impacted by the effects of climate change, as they are challenged by additional barriers that limit their access to technologies and agricultural inputs that could transform their livelihoods by producing more food while using less water and energy.
To build resilient, sustainable agricultural value chains in the face of these challenges, stakeholders need to get innovative and explore new business models. Three useful programs for improving agriculture value chains and addressing climate and gender challenges were the Securing Water for Food and Powering Agriculture Grand Challenges, as well as the new second-generation Water and Energy for Food (WE4F) Grand Challenge. WE4F is building on previous successes and lessons learned for climate mitigation and resilience, gender equality, poverty reduction, and protection of the environment and biodiversity.
Through the results of Securing Water for Food, WE4F learned that it’s not enough to just provide companies with resources and support to grow their impact. Technical experts must delve into the companies’ operations to determine the unique, actionable steps that will scale each innovation. WE4F also realized that if the program wants to leverage companies’ innovative water-agriculture, energy-agriculture, and water-energy-agriculture solutions for greater climate resilience and gender equality, then it must also use a Regional Innovation Hub (RIH) model that understands the local context and challenges.
In order to find local entrepreneurs and enterprises who meet expected standards and align with program goals, the WE4F RIHs release Calls for Innovations. Once the enterprises join WE4F as innovators, the RIH teams provide technical assistance, investment facilitation, and grants to help them scale. The latest Middle East and North Africa and South and Southeast Asia (S/SEA) Calls for Innovations brought in 32 new innovators who directly impact marginalized farmers with technology, financing models, digital solutions, and more.
One such enterprise is Claro Energy, a winner of the S/SEA Call for Innovations. They offer a solar-powered pumping system that uses solar panels designed to be carried as a backpack. By having lightweight solar panels, women farmers are able to move the system themselves and avoid operation costs associated with diesel fuel pumps and hiring workers to move solar panel systems. By replacing 750 liters of diesel with solar power, every solar irrigation pump installed annually prevents 2 tons of CO2 emissions. They also offer a unique pay-as-you-go financing mechanism that makes the technology more affordable and accessible to women.
With support from RIH experts, Claro Energy will now move beyond just having an innovative climate solution to exploring investor opportunities and expanding their operations. Claro Energy and the S/SEA RIH will work to improve monitoring and reporting metrics, making the whole process more automated and helping them resource plan for their impact measurement and reporting activities.
Claro Energy represents just one of the many WE4F innovators receiving financial and technical assistance and investment facilitation to grow their impact on food production, climate, and gender. Any water-ag, energy-ag, or water-energy-ag companies from more than 50 countries are eligible to apply and receive support from the five Regional Innovation Hubs. In the next three years, through the hubs and innovators, WE4F’s estimated impact will be more than 1,750,000 farmers and their families (with a minimum 30 percent of farmers being women). It is also estimated that the innovators will also reduce water consumption by 10 billion liters, energy usage by 12.5 percent per kilogram of food produced or processed, and mitigate the release of more than 9400 CO2 tons.
For more information:
- Securing Water for Food: A Grand Challenge for Development
- Powering Agriculture
- Water and Energy for Food Grand Challenge
- Webinar Series (First Session): Supporting Innovators Post COVID-19
- Report: Securing Water for Food: Failures, Pivots, and Lessons Learned
- Video Recording: South and Southeast Asia Regional Innovation Hub Kickoff Call
- Press Release: WE4F MENA Regional Innovation Hub Announces First Call for Innovation Winners
- Press Release: WE4F South and Southeast Asia Regional Hub Announces its First Cohort of Prize Winners
Katie Bailey is the Communications and Knowledge Management Coordinator for Water and Energy for Food: A Grand Challenge for Development. She manages the global communications and knowledge management strategies and oversees the Regional Innovations Hubs’ activities, working with the Middle East and North Africa, South and Southeast Asia, and Southern and Central Africa Regional Innovation Hubs to produce storytelling, knowledge products, and social media for lessons sharing and dissemination.