USAID and University of Nebraska Partner to Optimize Use of Water Resources in the Middle East

For Immediate Release

Friday, February 17, 2012
USAID Press Office

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the University of Nebraska announced a new partnership to expand research and development capacities in the Middle East, with a focus on water management. USAID Administrator, Rajiv Shah and University of Nebraska President, James Milliken signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) today that hopes to increase food production and improve water management in the Middle East.

“Today's MOU signing represents our Agency's commitment to high impact engagement with universities,” Shah said. “We look forward to deepening our partnership with the University of Nebraska, as we help to build scientific and research capabilities throughout the world.”

Dr. Shah and President Milliken were joined by Sen. Ben Nelson, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, Roberto Lenton, the new executive director of the University of Nebraska's Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute; Mara Rudman, Assistant Administrator for USAID's Middle East Bureau; and John Wilson, Director of the Office of Technical Services for USAID's Middle East and Asia Bureaus.

“Nebraskans have been leading the world in new irrigation techniques and groundwater management practices for more than 100 years. The success of our state has always depended upon it,” Senator Nelson said. “This partnership has the potential to have a lasting impact in a part of the world where water scarcity causes dangerous tensions between countries and severe suffering among people.”

Rep. Fortenberry said, “As a Member of Congress from Nebraska with responsibilities in both agriculture and foreign affairs, I am extremely proud of the University of Nebraska's leadership in agriculture and water management research. The University of Nebraska's Water for Food Institute is invested in exciting world-class research that may lead to advances in farming technology of immense global impact.”

This new partnership will leverage USAID and NU's comparative advantages to reduce the use of water in agriculture while sustainably maintaining crop yields. Through collaborative research, education, and outreach programs, USAID and NU will focus on irrigation, groundwater management, rain-fed agriculture, drought risk assessment and mitigation and support the Middle East North Africa Network of Water Centers of Excellence (MENA NWC).

“I'm delighted that the University of Nebraska has this unique opportunity to partner with USAID to address one of our most important shared concerns: the need to feed a rapidly growing global population with a limited amount of water,” Milliken said.

USAID and the University of Nebraska are eager to work together to support research program development and implementation undertaken by the MENA NWC. Rudman concluded the event with promise of a continued partnership, "We look forward to seeing the benefits of this partnership in the years to come, and we trust that our collaboration will grow over time."

About the Middle East North Africa Network of Water Centers of Excellence The MENA NWC links technical institutions across the Middle East and North Africa region, with each other and with counterpart U.S. institutions to address water challenges confronting the region. The Network helps build and exchange regional science and technology capacity to improve water planning and management, expand water supply, manage demand, and dramatically increase its efficient and productive use. MENA NWC strengthens and reinforces an important alliance of governments, research and educational institutions, civil society, and the private sector working together to resolve water challenges through research, capacity building, innovation, and knowledge sharing. This should help lead to sustainable development and improved livelihoods.

About University of Nebraska

For more than a century NU has been a national and international leader in research on water, agriculture and the management of critical natural resources. The university provides unparalleled facilities and infrastructure to support research in these areas, including a 3840-hectare field-scale research center near Lincoln, and five research and extension centers located throughout the varying agro-ecological zones in the state. NU Extension provides outreach throughout the state to transfer research into practice for agricultural producers, water managers, and other stakeholders. The newly established University of Nebraska Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute, or the Institute, reflects these strengths, as well as the ambitious goal of using its expertise to help people throughout the world grow more food using less water. NU is a comprehensive public land-grant university and Nebraska's research university system. NU offers academic programs at the undergraduate, graduate and professional levels in most disciplines, and has a student body of approximately 24,000 undergraduates and 4,000 graduate and professional students.

For more information about USAID and its programs in the Middle East, visit

Last updated: August 03, 2017

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