(C) Werner Du-Plessis, Unsplash
Research

Southern Africa // Prospects for Improving Irrigated Agriculture in Southern Africa: Linking Water, Energy and Food

By Tafadzwanashe Mabhaudhi, Sylvester Mpandeli, Luxon Nhamo, Vimbayi G. P. Chimonyo, Charles Nhemachena, Aidan Senzanje, Dhesigen Naidoo and Albert T Modi. Increasing agricultural productivity has always been a prominent feature on the regional agenda due to a high incidence of food and nutrition insecurity. This review assessed the current status of irrigated agriculture in southern Africa from a water–energy–food (WEF) nexus perspective.

Gaps and opportunities for improving irrigated agriculture within the context of the WEF nexus were also assessed in terms of the feasible limits to which they can be exploited. Southern Africa faces water scarcity, and climate projections show that member states will face increased physical and/or economic water scarcity by as early as 2025, which will have negative impacts on water, energy and food production. Recurrent droughts experienced across the region reaffirm the sensitive issues of food and energy insecurity as well as water scarcity. Projections of an increasing population within the region indicate increased water, energy and food demand. With agriculture already accounting for about 70% of water withdrawals, increasing the area under irrigation will place additional demand on already strained energy grids and scarce water resources.

This poses the question—is increasing irrigated agriculture a solution to improving water access, food security and energy supply?

While there are prospects for increasing the area under irrigation and subsequent improvement in agricultural productivity, adopting a WEF nexus approach in doing so would mitigate trade-offs and unintended consequences. Consideration of the WEF nexus in integrated resources planning and management eliminates the possibilities of transferring problems from one sector to other, as it manages synergies and trade-offs. While it is acknowledged that improving water productivity in irrigated agriculture could reduce water and energy use while increasing yield output, there is a need to decide how such savings would then be reallocated.

Any intervention to increase the irrigated area should be done in the context of a WEF nexus analytical framework to guide policy and decision-making. Technical planning should evolve around the WEF nexus approach in setting targets, as WEF nexus indicators would reveal the performance and impact of proposed interventions on any of the three WEF nexus components.

Download

Water Volume 10, Issue 12 (open access)

Published

December 2018

In

Water 2018, 10(12), 1881

Further reading

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Jobs

Vacancy // Executive Director of the Regional Environmental Centre for Central Asia (CAREC)

The Regional Environmental Centre for Central Asia (CAREC) calls for applications for the vacant position as Executive Director. Application Deadline 5. March 2019.

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Modelling and Assessment

Nexus Modelling // Involving the Water–Energy–Food Nexus in Integrating Low-Income and Isolated Communities

By Brenda Cansino-Loeza and José María Ponce-Ortega. This work presents a general mathematical programming model for satisfying water, energy, and food needs in isolated and low-income communities involving different process integration approaches. As a case study, the community with the lowest index of poverty and marginalization from the State of Guerrero in Mexico is presented. The problem consists in determining the optimal and sustainable configuration to satisfy the energy, water, and...

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Solar-powered Irrigation Systems (SPIS)

Nexus Blog // Solar Fields of Green: Researchers Find Symbiosis at the Food-Water-Energy Nexus

By Andrew Burger. Researchers around the world are discovering a variety of benefits resulting from installation of photovoltaic (PV) solar energy systems on farms and ranch lands, as well as the use of solar energy to power pumps for irrigation systems. The author analyses various positive effects of the use of solar-power energy in the agriculture sector both, in countries in the Global North and the Global South. Examples are longer growing seasons, more water-efficient biomass and a...

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