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About this book

Water, Energy and Food are the very basic necessities of human life and all the three of them are interconnected with each other, this connection being called the Water-Energy-Food nexus. Water is an inevitable element to energy and food systems to work. Water is essential for the growth of crops and produce energy and it consumes a lot of energy to treat and move water. Food and energy are equally dependent upon each other as well. This book highlights with various examples and case studies from around the World, the importance of this concept.

Table of Contents


Reflections About the Food–Energy–Water Nexus in a World Without Economic Growth—A Dynamic Multinational CGE Model-Based Thought Experiment

In response to the intensifying need to mitigate climate change and reduce the pressures on the earth’s natural resources, alternative economic (post growth) concepts begin to outstrip their role as niche concepts and are now frequently hypothesized to provide inevitable contributions to solving today’s sustainability challenges. Almost half a decade ago, Meadows et al. (The limits to growth. Universe Books, New York, 1972 [51]) instigated the discussion about “the limits to growth”, an idea which was later supported by the Brundtland Commission’s (World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) in Our common future. Oxford University Press, Oxford, New York, 1987 [94]) call for new growth models. More recently, authors such as Stiglitz et al. (Report by the commission on the measurement of economic performance and social progress. Paris, 2009 [74]; Mismeasuring our lives: why GDP doesn’t add up. New Press, New York, 2010 [73]) or Tim Jackson have demanded a complete redefinition of prosperity with the objective to decouple human welfare from the material impact on the environment (Jackson in Prosperity without growth. Earthscan, London, 2009 [37]). This discussion about new models of prosperity often finds itself under the label of the “green economy” or the “food–energy–water nexus” (FEW nexus) addressing the core sectors of this transformation process. In the developed model, these new ideas are integrated in an intertemporal dynamic multinational general equilibrium model (GE model). The GE model consists of four countries (A, B, C, D) with three economic sectors (FEW, households, industry) each. We discuss the economic effects of our GE model approach in four growth scenarios for the four countries: Country A follows a zero-growth scenario, countries B and C grow by moderate rates of 1.2% and 1.9%, respectively, and country D is on a de-growth pathway (−1.3%). This model approach reveals the possible socio-economic consequences and alterations of various growth models for the FEW nexus sector, as well as the other economic sectors of the four countries.
Holger Schlör, Stefanie Schubert, Sandra Venghaus

The Evolution of the Water–Energy–Food Nexus as a Transformative Approach for Sustainable Development in South Africa

Water scarcity, as one of the top three risks to livelihoods, continues to dominate the global development agenda. Research is faced with the task of developing water knowledge and innovation solutions to support policy and decision-making on formulating coherent strategies that drive sustainable socio-economic development. In South Africa, the Water Research Commission (WRC) and its partners have taken the lead in providing transformative solutions for socio-economic development in the face of multiple and interlinked challenges. Although the WRC has championed integrated approaches such as Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM), since 2011, and in line with emerging global trends, the focus has shifted to the more polycentric water–energy–food (WEF) nexus. The WRC has since instituted a WEF Nexus Lighthouse, a cross-cutting research, development, and innovation flagship programme that cuts across all its Key Strategic Areas (KSAs). Several research projects across the KSAs are linked to the WEF Nexus Lighthouse, following a defined research trajectory to inform resource management, decision-making, and policy. This study details the evolution of the WEF nexus as a polycentric and transformative framework that addresses various societal and environmental challenges in an integrated manner. We highlight the achievements made towards transforming the WEF nexus from being only a conceptual and discourse framework into an analytical decision support tool. Policy decisions that are based on WEF nexus have the potential to improve livelihoods and enhance sustainable socio-economic development for the achievement of the 2030 Global Agenda on Sustainable Development. The approach addresses complex socio-ecological by providing a strategic evidence base for informing policy- and decision-making.
Stanley Liphadzi, Sylvester Mpandeli, Tafadzwanashe Mabhaudhi, Dhesigen Naidoo, Luxon Nhamo

Integrated Watershed Management Vis-a-Vis Water–Energy–Food Nexus

Iran, like most of the developing countries in the world, faces many issues with limiting water, energy, and food resources. On the other hand, the state of the watersheds is being destroyed due to the imbalance between human and the environment leading to different environmental, social, economic, and political consequences. This requires a change of mindset so that we can understand what we do every day on the water–energy–food (WEF) nexus. Balance establishment among various main components of the ecosystems based on the WEF nexus approach is considered as one of the important parts of integrated and adaptive watershed management. This chapter briefly discusses on the concept, standards, and methods of the WEF nexus. An example of the application of the WEF nexus will also be presented from Iran exploring the interconnections between chapters of the nexus and integrated watershed management approaches. From the results and existing evidence, it can be concluded that the WEF nexus would be a practical, adjustable, and adaptive approach for fulfilling increasing demands of the human while there is a glance to limited resources. Based on the available literatures and the case study done by the authors, it can be ultimately concluded that the adoption of the WEF nexus would facilitate better achievements in integrated management of the watersheds.
Seyed Hamidreza Sadeghi, Ehsan Sharifi Moghadam

The Use of Biodigesters in the Treatment of Swine Manure in Southern Brazil: An Analysis of an R&D Project from the Perspective of the WEF Nexus

In 2008, the largest federal state company in the southern region of Brazil, Eletrosul, carried out the Alto Uruguai Project. This entailed 10 Canadian-type biodigesters, which were installed for the treatment of swine manure in Itapiranga County (located in the western region of Santa Catarina). In 2012, the Brazilian Electricity Regulatory Agency (ANEEL), through the Law 9.991/2000 (which promotes research and development initiatives in Brazil), launched a strategic R&D call. This targeted technical and commercial studies aspirating for the insertion of electricity generation from biogas (which arises from waste and liquid effluents in the Brazilian Energy Matrix). Eletrosul participated with a project that aimed to interconnect all the properties of the Santa Fé Baixa Line. The present was benefited by the Alto Uruguai Project, through a pipeline network and fiber-optic communication to a 480 kVA-installed capacity miniature thermoelectric power plant (MCT). Other large biodigesters were also built with the following materials: wood, concrete, stainless steel and slate stone. In this way, different technologies of biodigesters, and in different sizes, were built. This article aims to analyze, from the perspective of the water, energy and food nexus (WEF nexus), how the dimensions of sustainability can be met, providing opportunities for social, economic and environmental development for the region where the project was developed.
Ruy de Castro Sobrosa Neto, Alexandro Luiz da Silva, Janayna Sobrosa Maia, Nei Antonio Nunes, Jacir Leonir Casagrande, José Baltazar Salgueirinho Osório de Andrade Guerra

The Social Network Analysis to Study Discourse on Water–Energy–Food Nexus

Debates on the interrelationship, interdependences, synergies, and trade-offs on water–energy–food nexus have underscored the need for new methods to explore and understand the complexity of these relevant issues, particularly methods that are capable of representing the interrelationships between sectors. In this chapter, we discuss the utility of social network analysis to analyze social actors’ discourses surrounding the water–energy–food nexus sectors. Social network analysis (SNA) allows us to depict the connections that exist within the nexus sectors and those among social actors. We present a practical application of the method by analyzing textual documents regarding water, energy and food related issues from Brazilian government, media, and Non-Governmental Organizations. SNA can help present and map the degree to which coordination between actors and topics occurs in nexus systems. The essential elements of this type of analysis are centrality, and the extent to which individual nodes, which typically represent nexus topics are connected to one another in the network.
Lira Luz Benites-Lazaro, Nathália Nascimento, Alberto Urbinatti, Mateus Amaral, Leandro Luiz Giatti

The German Capability Index—An Operationalization of Sen’s Capability Approach

When reflecting on the global call for sustainable development (Gutteres in Davos speech 2019, January 24. World Economic Forum, Davos, 2019 [29]), a question posed by Amartya Sen actuates further thought—namely that for who has to be sustained (Anand and Sen in World Dev 28:2029–2049, 2000a [4])? This question was answered by himself, proposing “it is not so much that humanity is trying to sustain the natural world but rather that humanity is trying to sustain itself (Sen in J Hum Dev Capabil 14:6–20, 2013 [66])”. Against this background, in our research we addressed this question of who has to be sustained using Sen’s capability approach for the case study of Germany. For this purpose, the German household survey (Einkommens- und Verbrauchsstichprobe (EVS)) of the German Federal Statistical Office is used to analyse five social household groups (all households, single households, single parents, couples without children, couples with children) according to their income (nine income classes) (Federal Statistical Office Germany in Wirtschaftsrechnungen. Einkommens- und Verbrauchsstichprobe Einnahmen und Ausgaben privater Haushalte 2018, 2020a [19]; Federal Statistical Office Germany in Wirtschaftsrechnungen. Einkommens- und Verbrauchsstichprobe Konsumausgaben privater Haushalte 2018, 2020b [20]). Based on this survey, the question of who needs to be sustained will be analysed as follows:
First, the “worldwide reach (Rosa in Resonanz: Eine Soziologie der Weltbeziehung. Suhrkamp, Berlin, 2019 [62])” of the consumption patterns of the German household groups will be measured by their ecological and water footprints.
Second, an operationalization is derived for Amartya Sen’s sustainable development definition using the food–energy–water nexus as the core of sustainable development (United Nations (UN Water) in Water, food and energy. United Nations, 2020 [73]), and to reveal both
potential contradictions between the FEW sectors and other sectors of the German society which can negatively affect sustainable development in Germany, and
the degree of inequality in functionings and capabilities among German households.
Finally, those household groups will be identified which “have to be sustained” the most according to Sen’s definition.
In the presented model, based on ul Haq (Fukuda-Parr in Fem Econ 9:301–317, 2003 [24]; Haq in Human development in a changing world. UNDP, New York, 1992 [30]; Haq in Reflections on human development. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1995 [31]) and Sen (Anand and Sen in Human development index: methodology and measurement. Occasional papers. UNDP, New York, 1994 [3]; Sen in Ökonomie für den Menschen [Economy for the people], 2nd edn. dtv, Munch, 2003 [59]), the German capability index (GCI) is used to reveal both the capabilities and functionings of German society and the underlying justice structure of the German society. The capabilities (realization opportunities) in this context describe people’s opportunities of using their functionings (abilities) to achieve a place in society (Venkatapuram in Health justice. Polity Press, Cambridge, 2011 [81]) given their personal capabilities, while simultaneously maintaining a sustainable use of the food–energy–water resources. The aim of the German capability index (GCI) is to make the capabilities of the various German households comparable and establish the GCI as an index of revealed capabilities.
Holger Schlör, Wiltrud Fischer, Sandra Venghaus

Energy, Water, Food Nexus Decision-Making for Sustainable Food Security

Natural resources and their constituting systems continue to experience stresses attributed to expanding anthropogenic activities. Economic expenditures on most sectors are heavily dependent on water, energy and food resources, the utilisation of which contributes to resource depletion and environmental burdens. The energy–water–food (EWF) nexus is a concept that harnesses the intrinsic relationships existing between resources and representative sub-systems in order to support efficient resources management, develop resilience and enhance environmental consciousness. While the EWF nexus framework can provide preliminary decision-making insights into resource sub-systems, it cannot alone address modern-day multidimensional resource problems and their related economic and environmental challenges. Food insecurity, a global challenge for mankind, is a result of various factors, of which is resource mismanagement. This chapter investigates the possibility of understanding and alleviating food insecurity by means of the EWF nexus approach. It highlights using case studies the possible analytical and modelling decision-making tools that enable the characterisation and analysis of resources systems across strategic, tactical and operational levels of decision-making in volatile and risky environments. Example of studies involve optimisation, machine learning and agent-based modelling, and illustrate the complementary nature of these tools within decision frameworks, and how they can be utilised to alleviate food insecurity and support sustainable and resilient resource management.
Sarah Namany, Tareq Al-Ansari
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