Figure 2. Global map of countries active in nexus research based on author institutional affiliation. Darker shades of orange indicate more intensive areas of nexus research
The water-energy-food (WEF) nexus is a prominent approach for addressing today’s sustainable development challenges. In our critical appraisal of the WEF, covering different approaches, drivers, enablers, and applications, we emphasise the situation across the Global South (Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean). Here, WEF research covers at least 23 focal domains. We find that the nexus is still a maturing paradigm primarily rooted in a physical and natural sciences framing, which is itself embedded in a neoliberal securities narrative. While providing insights and tools to address the systemic interdependencies between resource sectors whose exploitation, degradation, and sub-optimal management contribute to (un)sustainable development, there is still insufficient engagement with social, political, and economic dimensions. Progress related to climate, urbanisation, and resource consumption is encouraging, but while governance and finance are central enablers of current and future nexus systems, gaps remain in relation to implementation and operationalisation. Harnessing the nexus for sustainable development across the Global South means recognising that it is more than a biophysical system, but also a multi-scale complex of people, institutions, and infrastructure, affected by history and context. Addressing this complexity requires alternative and possibly challenging perspectives to counter dominant narratives, and manage problems associated with policy integration, trade-offs, and winners and losers. We outline ten emergent research areas that we think can contribute to this endeavour and enable the nexus to be a stronger policy force.
Hejnowicz, A. P., Thorn, J.P., Giraudo, M.E., Sallach, J.B., Hartley, S.E., Grugel, J., et al. (2022). Appraising the Water-Energy-Food Nexus from a Sustainable Development Perspective: A Maturing Paradigm? Earth's Future, 10, e2021EF002622. https://doi.org/10.1029/2021EF002622
- Research Article // Exorcising Malthusian ghosts: Vaccinating the Nexus to advance integrated water, energy and food resource resilience
- Research Article // The energy-water-food Nexus: Concept, challenges and prospects
- Research Article // The Water-Energy-Food Nexus Index: A Tool to Support Integrated Resource Planning, Management and Security