Research article // Sustainability Considerations in Water–Energy–Food Nexus Research in Irrigated Agriculture
By Ahmad Hamidov and Katharina Helming. Irrigated agriculture is a key example of the water-energy–food (WEF) nexus, due to the strong competition over water used for energy generation and water used for food production in water-scarce areas of the world. The authors of this article analyzed scientific publications dealing with the water–energy–food nexus and related to irrigated agriculture around the world to take stock of the rapidly advancing literature on this topic, and to analyze how the concept was actually dealt with and implemented in research studies.
Relevance of water–energy–food (WEF) nexus to irrigated agriculture. © The authors
Irrigated agriculture is essential to satisfying the globally increasing demand for food and bio-based products. Yet, in water scarce regions, water-use for irrigation aggravates the competition for the use of water for other purposes, such as energy production, drinking water and sanitation. Solutions for sustainable food production through irrigated agriculture require a systemic approach to assess benefits and trade-offs across sectors. Here, the water–energy–food (WEF) nexus has become an important concept in natural resource management. It has been conceptualized to analyze linkages and trade-offs between the three sectors, across temporal and spatial scales. However, the concept has so far mainly been conceptual, with little empirical evidence or proof of concept in real world cases. The objective of this paper was to take stock of the rapidly advancing literature on the WEF nexus in irrigated agriculture, and to analyze how the concept was actually implemented in research studies, and how the nexus between water, food and energy was actually dealt with. The study period ranges from 2011 to 2019, and includes 194 articles. Results showed that the WEF nexus is indeed very relevant in irrigated agriculture, and the respective literature makes up one third of all WEF nexus papers. Modeling and empirical research have caught up with conceptual synthesis studies during the last four years, thereby indicating that the WEF nexus concept is indeed increasingly operationalized. However, most studies addressed the WEF nexus from a perspective of either socioeconomic, technological or environmental categories, and they place one of the dimensions of water, food or energy into the foreground. To address sustainable development, there is a need to fully integrate across research disciplines and thematic dimensions. Such studies are only starting to emerge. These findings are an important evidence-base for future WEF nexus research on irrigated agriculture, in support of sustainable solutions for water scarce regions, especially in settings undergoing transformations.
sustainability; water resources; food security; energy production; soil services; transformation; governance; sustainable development goals
Hamidov, A., & Helming, K. (2020). Sustainability Considerations in Water–Energy–Food Nexus Research in Irrigated Agriculture. Sustainability, 12(15), 6274. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12156274
Sustainability Considerations in Water–Energy–Food Nexus Research in Irrigated Agriculture
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