At the same time as development aid means less and less to more and more countries, development aid still has a role to play in accelerating positive development. It can be about supporting projects such as "Powering Agriculture", which today presents 14 innovations for green energy in agriculture. Not all investments will pay off, but any gold nuggets can have enormous positive consequences for people in developing countries. That is the opinion of Sida's CEO Charlotte Petri Gornitzka
Fish that go bad before it reaches the market in eastern Indonesia and nutritious breadfruit that rots away in Haiti. These are two examples of a global problem - that large parts of the world's harvests are wasted due to shortcomings in the chain from farm to fork. In some developing countries, this is as much as 40-50 percent. Finding solutions is one of the major challenges for the future livelihood of the earth's population.
The solution may seem simple, it's about electricity. Lack of electricity means that food products cannot be cooled, stored, heated or packaged properly to eventually become a meal in someone's stomach. For many years, Sida and other aid actors have invested large sums of money in expanding their electricity networks in order to reach even the poorest in the most remote villages. But many times it is a very costly job, sometimes it is not technically possible or financially defensible.
Problems are there to be solved and even though we have a great deal of accumulated knowledge and experience in the development aid world, it is necessary to bring in new ideas to solve global problems. Together with our partner, the American aid agency USAID, we decided to invite companies, universities, think tanks and other innovative innovators to come up with new smart ideas in the field. We received almost 500 suggestions from all over the world Powering Agriculture, a so-called 'challenge fund' where companies and entrepreneurs can apply for funding in competition with others.
Today we can present the first 14 innovations around green energy in agriculture that receive our support. A total of 14 million dollars is being invested by Sida and USAID in order for these smart ideas to become a reality and for new products to enter the market to reduce the waste in food production.
Is it well-invested aid money to support inventions and innovations, for which we sometimes cannot predict the future? Yes, we think so. Major upheavals in the world in recent decades are creating a completely new role for development aid. In some countries, we have previously been the only or dominant source of income. Today, aid in most countries is only a small part of the economic flows. This is, of course, a very positive development. But even if poverty levels fall, development aid still has a role to play in accelerating positive development.
The world is changing through innovations. Being a catalyst for good ideas, innovative solutions and inventions that can solve the problems that poor people struggle with in their everyday lives is such a role. There are examples of innovations in health and communication that have had a huge impact on the lives of poor people. It can be about opportunities for people without access to banking services to send money via their mobile phone or to connect clinics in the country with specialist doctors in large hospitals. Innovative assistance can accelerate the development of such solutions.
Quite frankly, we know that some of our investments will not pay off. But if our efforts lead to us washing out a few grains of gold, it can have extremely positive consequences for people in developing countries.
A couple of weeks ago, Sida and USAID signed a partnership together where we will invest heavily in research, technology and innovation - a joint investment of $ 400 million. In the next few years, we will build up a portfolio with various tools to stimulate innovations, and the 14 solutions we present today are a first step.
So what happened to the fish in Indonesia and the breadfruit in Haiti then? With support from Powering Agriculture will develop a new solar energy solution where they have found a way to not have to store energy in expensive battery parks. In this way, the energy can be used for cold storage and ice to keep the fish fresh during storage and transport. Today, 35 percent of the catch in Indonesia is wasted, so solutions to the problem of cooling can be of great importance for more people to have access to food. Even in Haiti, where three out of four Haitians do not have access to electricity, solar energy is at the heart of a project where farmers have access to efficient electric mills where they can grind flour from breadfruit into flour and thus extend their shelf life to several months.
Sometimes the simplest solutions can be the smartest. But someone has to come up with them. There, we believe we have a role to play in encouraging innovation and ensuring that ideas have a chance to leave the drawing board and make a real difference in people's lives.
Charlotte Petri Gornitzka,
Director General of Sida