MELISSA D. HO, senior vice president for Freshwater and Food at WWF-US, leads an integrated team working on place-based and market-based initiatives that aim to protect freshwater resources, conserve critical landscapes, and strengthen regenerative, resilient food systems.
Melissa has over 20 years of experience as a scientist, policy advisor, and development professional and takes a system’s approach to address the two biggest threats to nature and climate: agriculture and infrastructure. Throughout her career, Melissa has leveraged a keen focus on the intersection of water and agriculture, and the connections to health, energy, and development. She has worked at the landscape level, with large-scale irrigation systems, agricultural value chain development, and community-based water resource management, as well as at the household level driving water technology adoption through the private sector and addressing gender inequity and child malnutrition through nutrition-sensitive agriculture interventions. Melissa came to WWF from the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), where she oversaw a $1.5 billion portfolio of public sector investments in energy, water, and agriculture infrastructure in West Africa. Prior to that, Melissa served at USAID where she oversaw the technical team responsible for strategy development and integration for Feed the Future, the US Government’s global hunger and food security initiative. Melissa was an early member of the Agriculture Development team at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, where she led a portfolio of grants related to agricultural water management, extension, and data systems. Melissa has also served in various capacities in the US Congress.
In 2021, Melissa was appointed to the National Academies Climate Security Roundtable. She currently serves on the board of several domestic and international organizations. She has a PhD in plant physiology from the Pennsylvania State University, an MSc in soil science (plant-water relations) from the University of California, Davis, and a BSc in environmental systems from Cornell University. She enjoys hiking, biking, and baking, and she especially savors seeking out specialty dishes and local cuisine from wherever in the world she may be. She lives with her family on Capitol Hill in Washington DC.