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MIT establishes Abdul Latif Jameel World Water and Food Security Lab

MIT establishes Abdul Latif Jameel World Water and Food Security Lab (J-WAFS) to focus and coordinate MIT efforts to help find sustainable solutions for the scarcity of worldwide water and food supplies
In a statement, MIT announced the establishment of Abdul Latif Jameel World Water and Food Security Lab (J-WAFS) to ensure availability of the world’s food and water supply for the 21st century. MIT announced that J-WAFS will spearhead research and scientific applications that will help humankind adapt to a rapidly changing planet and combat world-wide water scarcity and food supply. In addition, the lab will elevate the Institute’s commitment to address the collective pressure of population growth, urbanization, and climate variability — factors that endanger food and water systems in developing and developed countries alike.
“Ensuring sustainable and affordable access to food and water for all is one of the most pressing challenges facing humanity,” said MIT President L. Rafael Reif.
“Establishing J-WAFS will spur action at MIT and around the world to make real progress on acute food and water insecurity as well as energize MIT’s efforts to tackle the broadest questions about how we ensure sustainability,” he said.
“This extraordinary commitment is an investment in the health and future of the planet that will benefit people worldwide, and we are extremely grateful to Mohammed Jameel.”
Commenting on the establishment of J-WAFS, Mohammed Abdul Latif Jameel said: “Currently, an estimated 1 billion people lack reliable access to water, and 2 billion suffer chronic hunger or malnutrition. World population is projected to grow from about 7 billion today to 9 billion by 2050. The acute problems already before us will only intensify with rising population.”
He said: “It is the mission of this lab to develop solutions on a grand scale. Toward that end, I have challenged the lab to set the goal of reaching half a billion people by 2025.”
“I was lucky to have studied at MIT, where I witnessed firsthand how MIT uses science, technology, and scholarship to solve ‘real-world’ problems of global significance,” Jameel continued.
“The Lab will help find solutions to two of the biggest problems facing mankind; water and food are essential to life: without them mankind simply cannot survive. How will we find enough food to feed 2 billion more people by mid-century with an eventually declining agricultural footprint and water resources?“
Jameel said that they will seek to build cooperation relationships between J-WAFS and universities and scientific and research organizations in Saudi Arabia, Gulf and Arab and Muslim countries, which will help exchange experiences to address these historic challenges facing us all and help change the future now for generations to come.
J-WAFS will commence operations in September 2014. Because water and food systems, needs, and challenges are often specific to a particular country or region, the lab’s approach will emphasize solutions that vary by area of activity. And the lab will seek to develop broad-based approaches through a range of disciplines: urban planning and design, engineering and technology, climate and hydrology, and policy, economics, and social sciences.
A high number of MIT departments already have faculty addressing specific problems around food and water supply, according to John Lienhard, who will direct the lab as the Jameel Professor of Water and Food. One role for J-WAFS, he said, will be to organize these efforts by articulating “grand challenges.”
The overarching goal of the Abdul Latif Jameel World Water and Food Security Lab will be to use science and technology in the context of sound policy to improve lives, both in the US and worldwide. In order to have the greatest impact, J-WAFS will draw on MIT’s particular strength in urban planning to tackle the pressing problems faced by cities.
The lab will also complement research thrusts within the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI), said Robert C. Armstrong, the director of MITEI and the Chevron Professor of Chemical Engineering.
Abdul Latif Jameel Community Initiatives (ALJCI) is a dedicated supporter of research initiatives at MIT to improve lives around the world. In 2005, the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), was established as a research center at MIT’s economics department whose founders, Professor Esther Duflo and Professor Abhijit Banerjee, pioneered the use of randomized controlled trials to test the effectiveness of antipoverty programs in developing countries.
Today, J-PAL has seven offices worldwide, and 102 researchers working in 56 countries. 164 million people have been reached by policies found to be effective by J-PAL studies.
J-PAL is already spearheading two initiatives related to water and food security: the agricultural technology adoption initiative (which tests approaches to encourage adoption and productive use if agricultural technologies by small-scale farmers), and the urban services initiatives.
He has also supported D-Lab’s “scale-ups” program, which develops and helps commercialize affordable products for the poor.
Since 1994, he has supported dozens of students to complete their education at MIT through the Abdul Latif Jameel Toyota Endowed Scholarship Fund.
Most of these students are from developing countries.
Mohammed Abdul Latif Jameel received his SB in civil engineering from MIT in 1978.
He is president of ALJ Community Initiatives (ALJCI), which helps to create tens of thousands of jobs annually, amongst other programs, in the Middle East and North Africa.

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