SWFF Delegation in Stockholm, Sweden | 2018 World Water Week | Photo by Benjamin Arthur

A Grand Challenge For Development

Securing Water for Food: A Grand Challenge for Development helps farmers around the world grow more food using less water, enhance water storage, and improve the use of saline water and soil to produce food by ensuring that the entrepreneurs and scientists behind groundbreaking new approaches are getting the support they need to apply and expand their solutions around the world.

Promoting Science and Technology Solutions

Since 2013, USAID, Sweden through the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), the Government of South Africa, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands have invested $35 million and provided critical acceleration support to promote science and technology solutions that enable the production of more food with less water and/or make more water available for food production, processing, and distribution.

Hectares of land under improved practices
Support engagements delivered to date
Million+ leveraged by SWFF awardees in 162+ additional partnerships

Founding Partners

USAID, Sweden through the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands launched the Securing Water for Food Grand Challenge for Development the first week of September 2013 during World Water Week in Stockholm.

Securing Water for Food and its newest partner – the Department of Science and Technology, South Africa – has worked to identify and accelerate science and technology innovations and market-driven approaches that improve water sustainability to boost food security and ultimately alleviate poverty. The goal of the Challenge is to enable the production of more food with less water and/or make more water available for food production, processing, and distribution.

Dr. Ku McMahan

US Agency for International Development, United States

Dr. Ku McMahan serves as Team Lead for Securing Water for Food: A Grand Challenge for Development in the US Global Development Lab at USAID. SWFF is a $35M partnership between USAID, South Africa, Sweden through the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), and the Foreign Ministry of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

He received his Ph.D. in environmental sciences and an M.P.H. in environmental health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill under NSF and EPA STAR Fellowships. He received a B.A. in environmental sciences and policy. In addition, he developed a simple, low-cost water quality test for developing countries and emergency situations. Ku was recently a program executive officer for the USAID WA-WASH program in GLOWS and assistant professor of research at Florida International University.

Omer van Renterghem

Senior Policy Advisor Water and Environment, The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Netherlands

Omer is working in the Inclusive Green Growth Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on water management. He is responsible for a number of programs, amongst these Securing Water for Food, the Valuing Water Initiative, and a strategic partnership on sustainable landscape management with WWF and IUCN. He also supports development of Netherlands water programs in Rwanda and Ethiopia.

Before joining the water cluster his focus was on environmental aspects of the broader sustainability agenda: green growth, natural capital accounting, and circular economy. He initiated the Initiative for Sustainable Landscapes (ISLA), focusing on the business case for integrated landscape management, and he was leading a project team on landscape approach. In addition, until recently, he was involved in the international Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).

Pia Lindström

Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, Sweden

Pia Lindström is a program manager at the Unit for Global Economy and Environment at Sida, primarily working with challenge funds within the fields of environment and climate change including resilience.

She holds a M.Sc. degree in International Economics from the Stockholm School of Economics and a B.Sc. in Political Science from Stockholm University. She has previously worked with the EU Commission/EuropeAid on corporate social responsibility issues and has for six years been based in the field in Bhutan and India working for the UNDP as well as managing local NGOs focusing on climate smart agriculture, sustainable waste management, appropriate technologies including sustainable energy and water projects, and youth social entrepreneurship programs.

Daan du Toit

Acting Chief Director: International Resources, The Department of Science and Technology, South Africa

After several years in Brussels promoting South Africa's science and technology interests in Europe, Daan du Toit has returned to Pretoria as Deputy Director General: International Cooperation and Resources. For more than a decade, Mr. Du Toit has worked tirelessly to promote South Africa's participation in competitive international research funding and to encourage European investment in South African science and technology.

Initially, from 2003 to 2006, Mr. Du Toit was the Director: Strategic Partnerships at the Department, responsible for establishing a mechanism for leveraging resources to support South Africa's science and technology capacity, and he was instrumental in the creation of the European South African Science and Technology Advancement Programme (ESASTAP).

Technical Assistance Facility

Securing Water for Food: A Grand Challenge for Development (SWFF) through its Technical Assistance Facility, a project of The Kaizen Company, provides financial and acceleration support to the game-changing innovators who work at the nexus of water and agriculture. This hybrid incubator-accelerator helps innovators improve their market-driven business development, commercial growth, and scaling.

The SWFF TA Facility consults and works hand-in-hand with each Grand Challenge innovator to identify their specific barriers to hitting targets and scaling their technologies, and then connects them high-impact service providers that bring the capabilities, global presence, and specific country knowledge to help them overcome those barriers.

The TA Facility also works with partners along the food value chain to test and market innovations, and to provide needs-based and tailored services to help the innovators address one of the world’s most pressing development challenges.

Dr. Donna Vincent Roa

Chief of Party

An internationally accredited business communicator (ABC) and certified development project manager (CDPM®), Dr. Donna Vincent Roa is the author of numerous articles and three books including The Value of Water: A Compendium of Essays by Smart CEOs. Donna has worked previously as a management and branding consultant for international organizations, EPA’s Public Affairs Director and Director of Science Communication, and a social scientist with USIA. Globally recognized as a champion for water, sustainability, agriculture and the environment, she was one of 10 social scientists to conduct research in world capitals for the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s first redesign of the $100 bill.

As Chief of Party for the SWFF TA Facility, she is catalyzing social impact entrepreneurship in the water-ag nexus. She holds a Ph.D. in international communication, and has worked and travelled in 45 countries.

Kevan Hayes

Acceleration Facilitator

Kevan Hayes received his M.B.A. in Information Systems and his B.B.A. in Finance from Baylor University in Waco, Texas. Kevan has extensive experience providing strategic advisory to senior leaders of Fortune 1000 companies and government agencies in the US, Europe, and the Middle East.

His career focus has been helping clients identify, prioritize, and implement process improvement and knowledge management solutions to increase productivity and improve decision making. As Acceleration Facilitator for the SWFF TA Facility, he recruits and manages a global network of consultancies and subject matter experts to provide technical assistance and diagnoses innovators' challenges to scale, connecting them to support resources they need.

Saad Usmani

M&E Specialist

Saad Usmani received his M.Sc in Environmental Economics from the University of York (UK) and his B.Sc in Agriculture and Resource Economics from the University of Alberta (Canada). He speaks Spanish, Hindi/Urdu, and Kiswahili fluently and he has been responsible for the implementation of diverse programs ranging from snail rearing and organic farming workshops in Ghana, to agroforestry initiatives and agribusiness development in Tanzania, and rainwater irrigation in arid, food deficient areas of Kenya. He also has engaged in fieldwork in multiple countries on behalf of the public, academic, and private sector for the purposes of agricultural development, food security, and environmental conservation.

He is currently the M&E Specialist for the SWFF program, providing technical assistance to all SWFF awardees and ensuring that robust data are captured to inform decision-making at all levels of the program.

Cassy Rodriguez

Program Specialist

Cassy Rodriguez is an international development professional with experience in community-based forest management and the water and agriculture sector. As the Program Coordinator for SWFF, Cassy provides support to the SWFF Team Lead and the TA Facility and serves as liaison with internal and external partners.

Prior to joining SWFF, she worked as a Program Coordinator at the NYU School of Law. As a graduate student, she conducted fieldwork in South Africa, Zambia and Peru. She holds an M.S. in International Development from New York University and is a Magna Cum Laude B.A graduate in Psychology with a minor in Anthropology from Stony Brook University.

Nikki deBaroncelli

The Kaizen Company Home Office SWFF Associate Program Manager

Nikki deBaroncelli is an international development professional with experience in program development, research and assessment, and cross-cultural project management.

Prior to joining Kaizen, Nikki worked for Walk With Sally, a youth development nonprofit, where she created and implemented successful program-wide policies and procedures, and organized all program events, trainings, and presentations. She also served as a Volunteer Coordinator for African Impact, a development organization in Livingstone, Zambia. While there, she managed and trained volunteers from all over the world, provided on-going logistical support, and served as a liaison between the organization and high-level community stakeholders. Nikki holds a Master’s degree in International Development from the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies, concentrating in Humanitarian Assistance.

Sam Weisman

The Kaizen Company Home Office SWFF Program Management Coordinator

As a Program Coordinator at the Kaizen Company working with SWFF, Sam Weisman provides home office backstopping and helps support the voucher system.

Before joining the Kaizen home office, Sam worked as an Associate at SWFF where he coordinated a remote association (intern) team.

Sam holds a Bachelor's degree in International Studies with a Concentration in Globalization and Sustainability from Dickinson College, where he contributed to several research projects around water and agriculture in Nepal.