The US, Netherlands, South Africa, and Sweden have again joined forces to offer millions of dollars to innovators who enhance food productivity by improving water efficiency in agriculture.

Securing Water for Food, now in its fourth year, is seeking ideas for technologies or business models that enable farmers to produce more food with less water, to enhance water storage, or to improve use of salty water and soils for growing food.

The scheme is providing $7.4 million in this round of funding, and particularly encourages responses from women-owned or women-led enterprises, or for solutions that engage and enable women. They should be innovations whose success has been demonstrated through pilot projects.

“We provide catalytic funding to innovators at the water-agriculture nexus, who can solve the challenge of helping famers to grow more food with less water,” said Christian Holmes, global water coordinator at US Agency for International Development (USAID).

Bjorn Lyrvfal, Sweden’s ambassador to the US, added: “In sub-Saharan Africa, women produce as much as 80 per cent of food. It is therefore crucial that we strengthen the role of women.”

Securing Water for Food will supply $32 million of funding by 2018. It is backed by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the government of South Africa, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, and UNSAID.