The goal of the new Water for Food Programme is to develop both sustainable and bankable business cases in which agriculture meets water. The new programme was initiated, developed and implemented by the Netherlands Water Partnership (NWP) and aims at replication and scale-up, drawing on Dutch expertise to enhance international food security. NWP’s Programme Manager Roy Agterbos explains: “We want to think big, start small, and learn fast.”
Water as leverage for food security
The Netherlands is a global leader in both agriculture and water management. Innovative water technologies and practices are key to improving the efficiency and productivity of water in agriculture, and result in more sustainable food systems. The new Water for Food Programme aims to further strengthen an integrated approach through supporting the development of high potential business cases with seed money. The programme, initiated by Netherlands Water Partnership, is supported by the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality.
Roy Agterbos, NWP Water for Food team
“The Programme’s primary objectives are to improve food security and sustainable water use, and protect ecosystems and biodiversity. To achieve these, NWP’s hands-on approach is to accelerate business cases for the Dutch water and agrifood sector. An integrated, inclusive and sustainable approach is essential. The goal is not just to boost the yield per hectare, but to consider the environmental effects and to make sure that the local community really benefits. The programme is perfectly aligned with the Dutch Government’s International Water Ambition and, by extension, the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). By focusing on business case development in the Programme, NWP both complements and distinguishes itself from existing initiatives.”
Financial support is available for the selected projects to produce bankable and scalable business cases.
NWP Water for Food team
Supporting bankable projects
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the agrifood sector accounts for nearly 70% of total available freshwater withdrawal. At the same time, agriculture is a major source of water pollution. Through concrete, bankable projects at the interface of water and agrifood, NWP hopes to reduce food security challenges and create more sustainable management of available water resources. It will do this by drawing on the international potential of the Dutch water and agrifood sectors.
Peter Prins, NWP Water for Food team
“Promising projects must come from the water and agrifood sector and must have an impact at the farm level. As NWP believes that the sector must be in the lead in shaping this new programme, we have consulted dozens of organisations both within and outside these sectors, consulted the Dutch agricultural counsellors overseas, and conducted a broad survey. The final analysis showed that the sector is interested in a very broad geographic range and that there are clear opportunities across a wide geographic field. The programme will hence not be restricted geographically in its upcoming call for proposals. The next step is to select a number of promising projects that will be beneficial to farmers and farmers’ communities. The project ideas can be turned into strong business cases that are not only successful in themselves, but also have the potential to grow through replication and scale-up. Financial support is available for the selected projects to produce bankable and scalable business cases. The call for proposals will start in September 2021.”
An integrated, inclusive and sustainable approach is essential.
NWP Water for Food team
Knowledge exchange on water and agrifood
A good connection between supply and demand is mandatory for successful project development. One of the conditions for the Water for Food programme to support bankable projects is that there is sufficient confidence that the business cases enable the desired replication and scale-up. This calls for an in-depth analysis of the competition and any realistic potential support from bodies such as international development banks. To facilitate this, knowledge exchange and support for feasibility studies are also important components of the new programme. NWP will organise several masterclasses at the local level to gain hands-on experience and learn more about local needs.
Simone Sweerts, NWP Water for Food team
“Through the masterclasses, NWP will bring several Dutch companies, each with their own set of competences, as a collective in contact with key persons from the private sector and offer them training and introduce them to innovative tools and services. The key persons will receive intensive, certified training in a multidisciplinary setting geared to knowledge exchange. We are explicitly opting for this setting to help build trust and a network, and to test the extent to which this approach is effective in creating concrete business leads. At the same time, its train-the-trainer model that targets leading companies will maximise impact locally. The programme will run through 2022, and we will use this period to examine how we can work more structurally on ensuring food security by drawing on the potential of the Dutch water and agrifood sector. Our longer-term objective is to establish a sustainable Water and Food platform where business opportunities can be explored and successful pilots be brought to the next stage of scaling up, replication or adaptation to other regions.”
For more information on the Water for Food programme and its opportunities for the Dutch water sector, please contact Simone Sweerts, firstname.lastname@example.org