The world is currently facing a multi-pronged humanitarian and ecological emergency as we grapple with the impacts of the three ‘C’s: Covid, climate and conflict. The confluence of these crises has given more urgency than ever to generating innovative approaches for accelerating sustainable development, and to safeguard the fragile gains that have already been made in this regard.
The water-energy-food-ecosystem (WEFE) nexus is a cross-sectoral concept offering a holistic perspective of the interconnections among agriculture, energy production, water resources, and ecosystem health. Currently, agriculture uses about 70% of available global freshwater and 30% of global energy, and 90% of power generation around the world is water-intensive. To contend with the complexities of these relationships, ‘nexus thinking’ has emerged as a way of conceptualizing and addressing trade-offs, compromises and potential synergies among water, energy, and food.
However, most emerging nexus approaches have been narrowly focused on resource efficiency and technocratic ‘fixes’ that don’t adequately consider the impacts of resource use and development on diverse groups of resource users and managers. Critically, WEFE approaches often fail to ask who nexus innovations are actually serving: who is making decisions, on whose behalf, who is doing the work, who is bearing the risks or costs, and who is reaping the benefits?