event 12 nov. 2021

Research Article // Growing Spatial Overlap Between Dam-Related Flooding, Cropland and Domestic Water Points: A Water–Energy–Food Nexus Management Challenge in Malawi and Ghana

By Chengxiu Li, Weiyu Yu, Mawuli Dzodzomenyo, Moses Asamoah, Catherine Tlotlo Kerapetse, Matt Kandel, and Jim Wright. This study synthesised geospatial data concerning water points, land cover, and flooding to quantify spatial interactions between domestic water point safety, agricultural production, and dam-mediated flooding. Particularly given expansion of wells and boreholes through installation programmes, it highlights an increasing area of overlap between water points and cropland in both Malawi and Ghana, thus illustrating spatial aspects of the WEF nexus.

Wef ghana and malawi

Figure 1 (Li et al., 2021). An ecosystem services conceptual framework for WEF nexus interactions between hydropower dams, agricultural land conversion, and water point safety.


In sub-Saharan Africa, land cover change, expansion of hydropower infrastructure, and increased flooding complicate country-level efforts to meet the Sustainable Development Goal target concerning access to safe water. The Water, Energy and Food (WEF) nexus approach recognises that addressing these complex challenges requires cross-sectoral analyses at multiple scales. Building on such an approach, this study examined the interrelationships between land cover change, dam-related flooding and access to safe water via a national-level spatial analysis with local case studies in Malawi and Ghana. The assessment of the water–food interactions found that areas of overlap between water points and cropland increased from 2000 to 2020 for both countries at national scale, but overlap extent varied greatly depending on the land cover product used. Local-scale exploration of water point installation patterns in Zomba, Malawi confirmed this pattern, highlighting increasing non-governmental funding of borehole installation programmes. The assessment of water–energy interactions found that flooding mediated by hydropower dams increased for the White Volta Basin in Ghana, thereby increasing inundation of groundwater points. Local-scale focus group discussions revealed flooding resulted in contaminated water sources and high risk of injury or drowning whilst fetching water. Overall, this study highlights how socio-economic drivers are bringing water points, flooding and cropland into closer proximity, requiring flood mitigation measures at water points and agro-chemical management to minimise potential water quality impacts. Given differences between land cover products, the authors recommend more robust integration of existing land cover products to better monitor these phenomena.


October 2021


Frontiers in Water


Li, C., Yu, W., Dzodzomenyo, M., Asamoah, M., Kerapetse, C. T., Kandel, M., & Wright, J. (2021). Growing spatial overlap between dam-related flooding, cropland and domestic water points: A water–energy–food nexus management challenge in Malawi and Ghana. Frontiers in Water.


The article can be downloaded here.

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