Feeding the world’s hungry and access to energy are typically viewed as separate development goals. But it is becoming abundantly clear to those of us here in Rio de Janiero at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (RIO+20) that they are intertwined. The facts speak for themselves:

  • An estimated 850 million people go to bed each night hungry;
  • The world population grows by 77 million people each year, and by 2050 the population will be an estimated nine billion;
  • To meet this demand, global food production must increase by 70 percent by 2050.

PoweringAg, USAID’s new Grand Challenge, invites ideas and innovation on powering up energy in developing countries. The effort is expected to help women with 43 percent of the world’s farmers estimated to be female.

To feed nine billion people, we will need to increase food production on the land already growing today’s food supply, and access to sustainable energy is key.

The magnitude of the challenge is illustrated in Sub-Sahara Africa (SSA) where only fourteen percent of people in rural areas have access to electricity.  Post-harvest losses have risen as high as fifty percent in SSA, but with the introduction of cold storage, refrigerated transport, and business models to store produce could dramatically reduce levels of hunger. 

Look at India, where an estimated $10 billion of perishable food is lost in a year due to lack of cold storage and transportation.  What if this food were feeding people instead of spoiling?

To address these challenges, USAID has partnered with the Government of Sweden, Duke Energy, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the African Development Bank, and U.S. Department Agriculture to create Powering Agriculture: An Energy Grand Challenge for Development, a program which seeks to address the development barriers at this critical nexus of energy and agriculture.

The programs works to empower farmers in developing countries by making access to clean, renewable technologies at all points from farm to market a reality.  These technologies can transform farmers and food processing companies, allowing them to produce and deliver to market more and better quality food in less time.  Additionally, it allows farmers to store food or transform the foods they grow into higher value products.

But to find the clean energy solutions that will transform agriculture in developing counties, USAID is looking for innovators to offer solutions that can transform agriculture in these countries.  Visit us online to view our pre-solicitation information  and offer your comments, or join the PoweringAg community to help solve this critical Grand Challenge for Development.