(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

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Climate Change

Nexus Blog // Understanding the Water-Energy-Food Nexus in a warming Climate

In this article, the authors explore what the WEF Nexus is, how to minimize trade-offs and maximise co-benefits within it, and what opportunities it offers to address the challenges of a changing climate. They further draw on ongoing research in Tanzania’s Rufiji River Basin – a case that exemplifies key issues in the WEF nexus – where ambitious development plans cut across several sectors and could be severely limited by future climate change.

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Dresden Nexus Conference DNC2020

Call for Abstracts // Dresden Nexus Conference 2020

The call for abstracts for the upcoming Dresden Nexus Conference 2020 is now open! The Dresden Nexus Conference is an international conference series dedicated to advancing research on and the implementation of a Nexus Approach to environmental resource management and to fostering dialogue on how nexus thinking contributes to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

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Research

Call for Nexus Research Proposals // Call with South Africa on Water-Energy-Food Nexus

This call marks the start of a new cooperation programme with the South African National Research Foundation (NRF) and falls under the Merian Fund. The programme aims to further stimulate joint, impact-oriented research between Dutch and South African researchers. The first call for proposals focuses on the WEF nexus within major societal challenges. The deadline for submission is 26 September 2019.

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