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This project is co-funded by the European Union
Bundesministerium für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung
Resource  |  , Research Papers, Publications and Books  |  , Nile Basin  |  , Sub-Saharan Africa  |  16 Apr 2018

Towards a Relational Understanding of the Water-Energy-Food Nexus // Analysis of Embeddedness and Governance in the Upper Blue Nile Region of Ethiopia

By Christian Stein, Claudia Pahl-Wostl, Jennie Barron. Given the need for transformative changes towards more sustainable, integrated management of water, energy and food systems, the water-energy-food nexus concept seems highly relevant. However, while intuitively compelling, the nexus has also been criticized for abstracting and thereby dis-embedding the collaboration processes through which further integration could be achieved. There is a lack of empirical analysis and context-sensitive understanding, of the opportunities and constraints of, collaboration and cross-sector coordination, as faced by actors governing interconnected water, energy and food systems.

In this paper, the authors analyse how actors involved in the governance of water, energy and food systems are embedded in social networks, and discuss how that embeddedness shapes collaboration and coordination processes that are relevant for addressing interconnected sustainability challenges. Drawing on the notion of problemsheds, they delineate an analytical space that captures the interactions between water, energy and food systems and the actors influencing them in the Upper Blue Nile of Ethiopia. Their empirical data suggest that the claim that actors from different sectors are disconnected from each other is overly simplistic. The ways in which actors are embedded in hierarchical structures may help to explain why coordination challenges persist, despite the presence of cross-sectoral linkages among them.


  • Embeddedness shapes opportunities and constraints for cross-sectoral collaboration.
  • Problematises technocratic approaches for addressing nexus challenges.
  • Cross-sectoral relationships are intertwined with hierarchical power structures.
  • Boundaries for nexus analysis need to be contextualised rather than imposed.


ScienceDirect website (e-purchase) 


Available online 22 February 2018


Environmental Science & Policy, Elsevier. 
In Press, Corrected Proof. 

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Resource  |  , Infographics  |  18 Apr 2018

A Simple Shift to More Sustainable Eating // Plant-based Burger Could Save Emissions Equal to 2 Million Cars

By Richard Waite, Daniel Vennard and Gerard Pozzi. Americans eat approximately 10 billion burgers each year. Replacing 30 percent of the beef in those burgers with mushrooms would, according to a study by the World Research...› more

Research Papers, Publications and Books  |  , Resource  |  , MENA  |  17 Apr 2018

Nexus in the MENA Region // Assessment of the Water-Energy Nexus in the Municipal Water Sector in Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia

By Homoud Al-Mutrafi, Waleed Al-Zubari, Alaa El-Sadek and Ibrahim Abdel Gelil. This paper performs an assessment of the water-energy nexus in the municipal sector of the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, where the electric energy...› more

Policy Papers  |  , Resource  |  , South America  |  17 Apr 2018

Strengthening Climate Resilience in Urban Amazonia // Experiences from Tarapoto and the Cumbaza Watershed in San Martín, Peru

This brief presents a Water-Energy-Food (WEF) nexus case study of the Cumbaza River watershed in San Martin, Peru. The dynamic socio-ecological pressures and complex water-energy-food system interdependencies that exist in...› more