(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.

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Water Volume 10, Issue 12 (open access)

Published

December 2018

In

Water 2018, 10(12), 1881

Further reading

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Governance

Nexus Principles // The Water, Energy and Food security Nexus Principles

The Water-Energy-Food security Nexus Principles guide towards the application, implementation and operationalisation of the Water-Energy-Food security Nexus (WEF Nexus) approach in different contexts. The Principles were developed by practitioners based on their experience and grounded in research.

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Research

Publication // Beyond hydropower: towards an integrated solution for water, energy and food security in South Asia

By Rasul, G., Neupane, N., Hussain, A., & Pasakhala, B. (2019). This article provides an overview of current WEF-resource challenges in South Asia, and delivers potential angles for improvements that could be derived by implementing the Nexus approach, with a focus on hydroelectrial power and development of waterways. This is an excerpt of the original article, which can be accessed below.

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Governance

Publication // Mainstreaming the Water-Energy-Food Nexus through nationally determined contributions (NDCs): the case of Brazil

By Paim, M. A., Salas, P., Lindner, S., Pollitt, H., Mercure, J. F., Edwards, N. R., & Viñuales, J. E. (2020). This article gives insight into what role the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) of the 2015 Paris agreement might play in furthering the Nexus approach in Brazil. This is an excerpt of the original article, which can be accessed below.

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