event 24 Apr 2020

Article // The FE²W Network - Review and Outlook

This is a summary of a prospectus by the Food Energy Environment Water Network (www.fe2wnetwork.org) which has been reposted here with their friendly permission. It delivers an introduction towards the risk-assessment tool ROAD and its implementation as well as outcomes in several pilot projects and cases all over the world.


With the world´s population growing at a steady pace and heading towards 10 billion by the middle of the century, the stress put on and demand for resources of the water, energy and food sectors is increasing at unprecedented levels. Problems are simultaneously exacerbated by the devastating effects of climate change. This is where the Food-Energy-Environment-Water (FE2W) Network, finds its role. Created in 2014, it aims to find solutions for the systemic risks humankind faces when it comes to resource availability. It operates on the three pillars of understanding risks, engaging decision-makers and enabling action.

Working together with all levels of stakeholders, from high-level political agents to farmers in their fields, the aim of the Network is to support livelihoods, and increase the resilience of food, energy, water, and environmental systems. One of their main successes has been the development the Risks and Options Assessment for Decision-Making (ROAD) process. ROAD is a participatory, systems-based approach to assessing and addressing complex risks. It provides a structure to devise portfolios of management options, prioritize cost-effective investments, and avoid maladaptation and poor decisions. Complimentary, the Global Food and Water System (GFWS) Platform has been designed to serve as an online tool to exploring food-water linkages in the coming decades.

A pilot project for the ROAD approach has been implemented in the Lam Dong province of Vietnam, where highly intensive agricultural practices are facing pressure from increased risks of drought, as well as exerting pressure on ecosystems and resources themselves by pollution with agricultural by-products and groundwater degradation. In collaboration with local partners and government officials, data was collected both off- and on-site, a workshop conducted for stakeholders, and the results subsequently analyzed for forward guidance on how to deal with the threat of water scarcity in the region. The feedback by the involved decision-makers was positive, noting the valuable involvement of differing points of views between stakeholders, as well as the sound knowledge gained of the synergies between agricultural production and water demand. Some called for an up-scaling of the approach, as well as the incorporation of farmers´ knowledge when deciding for specific options. Key findings from the pilot project included:

  • Farmer acceptance of water pricing reform requires compensation for higher input costs
  • New irrigation infrastructure may exacerbate pollution & may not alleviate water shortages
  • Investments are needed in social institutions for groundwater management
  • ROAD can be used in contexts where participatory decision-making is seldom used
  • Facilitators need to guide participants' towards the decisions & actions under their control
  • Credibility of the process at the local level required a cascade of consent from higher levels

The prospectus contains several other innovative cases where the ROAD approach was implemented, such as in the case of an intensification of sustainable agriculture in South Asian countries, sustainable use of water resources in the Canterbury region of New Zealand, or a major example of transboundary water cooperation, namely the Niger River Basin, where a multitude of projects aims to achieve water, food and energy security as well as environmental stability for millions of people. It also contains several illustrations and graphic examples helping in understanding the ROAD approach and the fieldwork that was put in by the Food Energy Environment Water Network team members and their respective partners.


Food Energy Environment Water Network: Review and Outlook


February 2019


© The Food Energy Environment Water (FE2W) Network

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