About J-WAFS’ Founding

Learn more about the founding of the Abdul Latif Jameel Water and Food Systems Lab and our growth since 2014.  

The Abdul Latif Jameel Water and Food Systems Lab was founded in 2014 through a generous gift provided by Community Jameel, a global philanthropic organization founded by MIT alumnus Mohammed Abdul Latif Jameel ’78.  In 2015 Community Jameel  provided additional funding to J-WAFS to launch the J-WAFS Solutions Program which supports the commercialization of MIT food and water technologies.

Community Jameel has partnered with MIT on several initiatives addressing the most significant problems facing mankind. Community Jameel has supported the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) at MIT since 2005, and co-founded (with MIT) the Abdul Latif Jameel World Education Lab (J-WEL, in 2017) and the Abdul Latif Jameel Clinic for Machine Learning in Health (J-Clinic, in 2018).

Commenting on the establishment of J-WAFS at MIT, Fady Jameel, president, international of Community Jameel noted, “With rising populations, climate change and urbanization, we need to start taking action now to meet the world’s future needs for food and water. Access to clean water and better management of water resources can boost countries’ economic growth and can contribute greatly to poverty reduction. Through J-WAFS, we aim to support the development and deployment of technologies, policies, and programs which will contribute to help humankind adapt to a rapidly changing planet and combat water scarcity and food supply at a global scale.”

Fady Jameel standing next to Renee Robins and John Lienharrd against blank wall

Fady Jameel, president, international of Community Jameel (left), Renee Robins, executive director of J-WAFS (center), and John Lienhard, Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Water and Mechanical Engineering and director of J-WAFS (right).

Jameel 75

Reflecting on our relationship with Community Jameel, J-WAFS director John H. Lienhard V reflects on the founding conversations that led to the developments of J-WAFS and the ongoing relationship with our benefactor Abdul Latif Jameel.

Why "Systems"?

The term “systems” implies complexity and interdisciplinarity. Applied to the water and food sectors, it casts a wide net that encompasses infrastructure analysis, economic development strategies, policy, and human behavior as well as the innovations in science and technology that lead to new products and improved processes that will make our water and food systems safe, secure, and sustainable. Furthermore, the comprehensive approach that a systems perspective enables takes into account social, political, and environmental contexts, as well as the human resources that are involved in our water and food systems at every level.

Our projects emerge out of numerous academic disciplines at MIT, as diverse as mechanical engineering, chemistry, and anthropology. J-WAFS’ engagement with a wide range of MIT departments, labs, and centers enables us to address all aspects of the world’s water and food systems. J-WAFS-funded research is driving improvements in:

  • Water safety and supply;
  • Food safety and supply;
  • Agricultural technology—food genetics, fertilizers, irrigation, and packaging;
  • The sustainability of food and water systems—and the adaptation strategies needed to respond to climate change;
  • The energy efficiency of our water and food systems,
  • Economic and policy strategies to ensure the resilience of our water and food supplies;
  • And many more.

The variety of problems we tackle and research approaches we support continues to grow, reflecting the need to broadly engage MIT’s diverse research community in order to meet humankind’s water and food needs today and in the future . All the while, our goal stays the same: securing humankind’s vital resources: WATER and FOOD.