Promoting systems thinking at the MENA region’s first WEF Nexus Masterclass and Advanced School

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The Water–Energy–Food (WEF) Nexus Masterclass and in-person Advanced School support early career researchers, postgraduate students, managers, and practitioners in understanding nexus thinking, as a transformative approach to sustainable natural resources management and socio-economic development.

The online Masterclass in December 2023 was held as a WEF nexus introductory course, in preparation for the Advanced School hosted at the Hashemite University, Zarqa, Jordan in February 2024. This was the first time the courses, co-led by the CGIAR Initiative on NEXUS Gains and partners, had been run for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Achieving WEF security is a priority in the MENA region, especially given climate change, urbanization, population growth, and ecosystem degradation challenges.

Exploring an evolving field

Nishai Moodley is a PhD Candidate at the School of Public Health, Makerere University, Uganda. Having attended the online masterclass, she was one of 20 participants selected to attend the Advanced School and found the experience enriching and productive. The field of nexus research is relatively new. Over five days of lectures and field trips, the participants were exposed to this rapidly developing and critically important way of thinking.

Nishai explains that the Masterclass and Advanced School increased her understanding of the interconnectedness of WEF systems and the importance of integration and collaboration in managing WEF-related resources: “Throughout the experience, I have engaged with conceptual mapping, application tools, operationalized methods, country case studies, and public policy debates, including group work activities, fieldwork experiences, and cultural activities.”

Expanding networks and promoting collaboration

Ghadah Alameri is an engineer in the water sector working for the Baghdad Governorate, Iraq. She described the Masterclass and Advanced School as “one of the most outstanding courses” she has attended. Ghadah explains, “I always say that courses are not just about knowledge but also about colleagues,” and the Advanced School, with participants from across the world, was “an important opportunity to expand my network and meet new female colleagues interested in climate issues.”. Ghadah is excited to share the knowledge she gained with her peers. You can read more about her experience in this LinkedIn post.

Nishai also describes how “the workshop goes beyond the academic perspective and extends to the value of regional collaboration across continents, borders, and disciplinary backgrounds. The interactions with facilitators, professors, practitioners, researchers, students, and participants were open and constructive, with a notable intention toward the sustainable use of resources, bureaucratic transparency (concerning decision-making and participation processes), and improving livelihoods.”

“Above all”, she continues, “these interactions were a reminder that this was more than an academic discussion but a responsibility toward justice against social inequality, economic challenges, and political instability. It was remarkable to see how many women participated in this workshop, a true step toward representation, inclusion, and equal opportunity for access and security embedded in nexus understanding.”

“As a social scientist and SADC [Southern African Development Community] citizen, the WEF nexus workshop has convinced me that this discourse is worth the time and effort in research, theory, implementation, and empirical development. It reminded me that the world is changing, and our governing and political systems, too, must change. The nexus has a human appeal for sharing resources, collaborating, and recognizing that we are all human with the same need for clean water access, affordable energy, and food security.”

Next steps

The WEF Nexus Masterclass and Advanced School in the MENA region will become an annual event, like the Southern African School, which started in 2021 and has grown stronger since. There are also plans for more focused courses that respond to specific regional needs.

The online WEF Nexus Masterclass and in-person Advance School are implemented as activities of the Global WEF Nexus Community of Practice, available to join on LinkedIn. In August 2024, the Community of Practice will convene a WEF Nexus Summit in South Africa, at which the capacity development initiatives will be further discussed, with the outcome being a capacity development roadmap for the WEF nexus.

This work was carried out under the CGIAR Initiative on NEXUS Gains, which is grateful for the support of CGIAR Trust Fund contributors:

Header image: The WEF Nexus Advanced School participants in Jordan on a field trip to a solar-powered farm. In the front row kneeling – Ghadah Alameri (first from right) and Nishai Moodley (fifth from right). Photo by Professor Tafadzwa Mabhaudhi.

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