Water, energy, food, forests and biodiversity systems are strongly interconnected and are critical to rural livelihoods, food and nutrition security, and gender and social inclusion. However, governments, stakeholders and investors struggle to manage complex changes occurring across the waterenergyfoodecosystems nexus and ensure systems are robust under climate change and other human-made crises. The transboundary nature of many river basins makes integrated and sustainable management of water, energy, food and ecosystems particularly challenging. Systems thinking helps avoid unintended consequences that could jeopardize sustainability and exacerbate conflict. Good governance across boundaries and sectors requires strong institutions and actors willing to overcome a siloed approach and adopt new data tools to support nexus approaches.


This Initiative aims to realize multiple benefits across water, energy, food and ecosystems in selected transboundary river basins, by leading global nexus thinking and providing tools, guidelines, training and facilitation for analysis and research for development. 


This objective will be achieved through:

    • Applying trade-off analyses and foresight methodologies to support national and local government capacity in applying research evidence and data in policy and decision-making processes to assess and develop prioritized solutions for water, energy, food and ecosystems. 
    • Boosting water productivity and water storage management to improve food and nutrition security and underpin socioeconomic development in water-scarce regions by co-developing tools at transboundary to local scales for use by pro-inclusivity institutions.  
    • Energizing food and water systems by co-developing business and finance models for accelerated inclusive access to clean energy and water systems and supporting governments and other actors to take decisions to reduce the environmental footprint of food systems. 
    • Strengthening water, energy, food and ecosystems nexus governance by, among other things, supporting cross-sectoral multistakeholder platforms and ensuring marginalized voices are heard.   
    • Developing capacity for emerging women leaders by supporting women’s empowerment through technical and leadership skills development. 


      This Initiative will work in Botswana, Ethiopia, India, Mozambique, Nepal, Pakistan, South Africa, Sudan, Uzbekistan and Zimbabwe as a priority. 


      Proposed 3-year outcomes include:

        1. Basin policymakers, planners, researchers and demand and scaling partners use results from foresight and interactive modeling tools to assess trade-offs and synergies and develop prioritized water, energy, food and ecosystems nexus innovations and policies in at least three focal regions. 
        2. Public-sector departments, international organizations, academia and investors use water productivity assessments and water storage diagnostics across scales and sectors to improve system-level water productivity through nexus interventions in all target basins. 
        3. Private investors and policymakers use scalable gender-sensitive energy business and finance models to accelerate rural energy access for more sustainable and equitable food systems in Ethiopia, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sudan. 
        4. Policymakers and stakeholders use science-policy dialogues, multistakeholder forums and a co-developed governance toolbox and guidelines to strengthen governance across water, energy, food and ecosystems in all target basins. 
        5. At least 40 emerging women leaders in government, private sector, academia and research institutions increase capacity to identify, assess and implement one or more nexus innovations per focal basin. 


                Projected impacts and benefits include:


                Co-design of and capacity development to use the latest Earth observation data and state-of-the-art digital tools to support effective uptake by planners and policymakers responsible for national policies and strategies for environmental sustainability and biodiversity, bringing 0.3 million hectares of land under improved management.


                Underlying environmental, social and policy conditions that enable affordable healthy diets and safe nutritious food production are addressed, resulting in healthy, sustainable diets becoming more widely available and affordable, directly benefiting 2.5 million people and indirectly benefiting 23 million. 


                Rural poverty is addressed by increasing farm income through better access to clean energy, water and irrigation technology, higher resource-use efficiency, and generation of additional jobs and revenue opportunities for 2.5 million people, including women, youth and marginalized communities.


                Initiative capacity and mentorship programs focus on women, youth and marginalized groups, directly benefiting 0.4 million women and 0.5 million youth. The Initiative also considers how to strengthen women’s agency in the development of guidelines and toolboxes, focusing on accelerating clean energy access, improving groundwater governance and supporting cross-sectoral multistakeholder platforms building on earlier CGIAR and other work. 


                Scientific evidence on the impacts of climate-smart solutions across a range of sectors, and quantification of co-benefits and trade-offs, inform climate investments to ensure that they are effective and do not jeopardize system sustainability and resilience. Innovative financial models support inclusive and sustainable scaling, averting 2.5 million tonnes in equivalent emissions of CO2 and benefiting 2.5 million people. 


                Projected benefits are a way to illustrate reasonable orders of magnitude for impacts which could arise as a result of the impact pathways set out in the Initiative’s theories of change. In line with the 2030 Research and Innovation Strategy, Initiatives contribute to these impact pathways, along with other partners and stakeholders. CGIAR does not deliver impact alone. These projections therefore estimate plausible levels of impact to which CGIAR, with partners, contribute. They do not estimate CGIAR’s attributable share of the different impact pathways.


                Header photo: The Doyogena climate-smart landscape in Southern Ethiopia. Photo by O. Bonilla-Findji/CCAFS.


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