icon-linkedin icon-twitter icon-theme icon-at icon-phone icon-whatsapp icon-facebookp icon-archive icon-download icon-search chevron-left chevron-right
What are you looking for?

Water for Food Programme

Irrigation and agriculture
Roy Agterbos
Roy Agterbos
Project Manager Events and Business Development

Water and agriculture are inextricably linked. It is no secret that water is a critical input for agricultural production and as such, is essential to food security. At the same time, agriculture is by far the largest user of water, accounting for nearly 70% of total available freshwater withdrawals, and is a major source of water pollution.

Integrated approach to water for food

Global population growth coupled with the impact of climate change is putting already dwindling water resources under severe pressure and is leading to more frequent incidents of drought, flooding, salinity intrusion, and land subsidence.

The Netherlands is an important global player in both agriculture and water management. Yet, despite significant efforts, there are still too few concrete success stories that demonstrate the business case for an integrated approach to water for food. The Water for Food Programme addresses this issue by stimulating and facilitating the Dutch water sector and agrifood partners to develop business cases within this nexus.  

Business cases

The Water for Food Programme seeks to catalyse the development of water-related business cases in the agri-food sector through the cooperation of Dutch water sector players in consortia, and by focusing on potential business cases in specific local markets internationally. This will illustrate that business models can be created by adopting an integrated approach and by focusing on the business case aspect. Innovative water technologies and practices are key to improving the efficiency and productivity of water in agriculture, resulting in more sustainable food systems, and improved food security.

The multi-year Programme was initiated by NWP, which saw a clear need for this type of programme in the Dutch water sector. It is financed by the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality and was extended by another year. NWP operates as the neutral coordinator and facilitator of the Programme, focusing on its goals and executing its various components. One of the key advantages of the Water for Food Programme is our large network and strong connection with the water sector. We continuously work on the further development of the Programme bottom-up, using input from the sector. We bring together the substantive knowledge of and solutions from Dutch organisations which leads to strong business cases.

We continuously connect to global partners in many of the Programme’s projects and help connect successful business cases to financial institutions to scale up and replicate. We facilitate matchmaking between the water and agrifood sectors and thus strengthen the nexus.  

The Water for Food Programme played a crucial role in kickstarting the development of our product, with valuable support from NWP. Their financial backing and neutral coordination were instrumental in enabling us to initiate and develop the product. Our participation in the Programme has been a big part in bringing our goals to fruition. We greatly appreciate the support that we have received, and we would strongly encourage others to consider following in Nelen & Schuurmans' footsteps by participating in this impactful Programme.

Kizjè Marif

Consultant at Nelen & Schuurmans

Water for Food programme on the ground
Water for Food Programme on the ground

Multi-year Programme

The Water for Food Programme is a multi-year Programme, initially planned for a period of two years (2021-2022). Since then, several stakeholders in the water-agrifood sector and the Government have recognised that the Programme fills an important gap and connects water and agriculture. The Programme was thus extended by a year. The goal of the follow-up to the Water for Food Programme is to continue developing both sustainable and bankable business cases in which agriculture meets water.



The Programme’s objectives are to bring about improved food security, sustainable water use and protect ecosystems and biodiversity, as well as actively accelerate business cases for the Dutch water sector in the agrifood domain. 

Further, by demonstrating concrete and viable solutions in the water-agrifood nexus, the Programme will boost the visibility of the Netherlands as the global market leader in the water, agrifood and ecosystems sectors. This will optimise the Netherlands’ position in generating future business opportunities and support the Netherlands International Water Ambition (NIWA) and the SDGs.    

The long-term objective is to establish a sustainable Water and Food ‘hub’ that connects players in the water and agrifood sector to co-create international projects and to serve as a central information point. The hub will act as a permanent platform that is open to Dutch entities interested in water and agrifood, where business opportunities can be explored and successful pilots be brought to the next stage of scaling up, replication or adaptation to other regions. 

    This programme is closely knit with the needs of the sector to develop a strong business case for Water for Food. It gives organisations the support they need to explore the viability of their propositions. And at the same time, it creates new solutions for the interlinkage between water and agrifood. A win-win!

    Roy Agterbos

    Project Manager Events and Business Development

    Cross-sectoral approach

    The cross-sectoral approach and the focus on financially viable local business cases in the most promising markets are crucial elements of the Programme. However, these make the Programme more complex. Developing sustainable solutions will take significant effort and multiple interventions, and can only be achieved if all the relevant know-how is shared amongst and put into action by stakeholders. The experienced Project Manager Programme facilitates this process.


    Masterclasses: in-depth training connecting local challenges with Dutch solutions

    In addition to the above-mentioned Business case objectives, the Water for Food Programme runs what it calls ‘masterclasses’. These are in-depth training programmes, co-created and executed with local stakeholders in a Programme involving Dutch and local players. The masterclasses are based on specific local problems for which there may be customised Dutch solutions. Each masterclass is designed as a tailored programme, which may then act as a starting point for further cooperation and generate business.’

    Masterclass in Bangladesh
    Masterclass in Bangladesh

    Unique features

    The Programme illustrates that business models can be achieved by adopting an integrated nexus approach and focusing on the business case aspect. It has several unique features.

    • Water and agrifood partners are leading in determining the focus of each country and business opportunity.
    • There is a focus on the pre-competitive phase of project development.
    • The users of any water technology are local beneficiaries. 
    • The Programme identifies and aligns itself closely with existing, complementary initiatives and key partners (governmental programmes and instruments, NGOs, platforms/networks, financial institutions).
    • Part of the Programme budget is seed money to further develop the business cases.
    • It demonstrates that a nexus can fill an important gap: in this case, the essential role of water in food production and security. 
    • The business cases demonstrate a realistic implementation and scalability potential; water technology and expertise are appropriate to the local context.

    Programme Management by NWP

    As the programme manager, NWP is a neutral and independent authority in the water sector and a recognised and valued partner for international organisations. Our position as the pre-eminent networking organisation of the Dutch water sector enables us to stimulate the sector to embrace and further explore opportunities in the agrifood space. This places us in a unique position to manage this Programme. 

    Related news