event 29 Jun 2018

OFID Pamphlet Series // The Energy-Water-Food Nexus: Managing Key Resources for Sustainable Development

The energy–water–food (EWF) nexus approach recognises the dynamic and complex interlinkages between energy, water and food security, all of which are key goals in the context of sustainable development. The approach is a structured planning method that aims to capture the interdependency of resource use and availability across all three major sectors. In so doing, it can lead to a more optimal allocation of resources, improved economic efficiency, lower negative environmental and health impacts, and better economic development conditions.

category Research Papers, Publications and Books tag Governance tag SDGs
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The world is confronted with significant challenges in the way it manages and consumes its resources. Traditionally, energy, water and food have been treated—and intervention designed—as if the relationship between the three was only casual. Little consideration has been given, for instance, to the impact on food security and water resources of growing food crops for biofuels production. The fact is that energy security, water security and food security are closely intertwined. In its simplest form, the relationship can be characterized as follows: food production needs water and energy; water production needs energy; and energy production needs water.

Beyond these basic dependencies, the interactions among the three sectors are highly complex and dynamic. And their entanglement will only become more intimate in the coming decades, as population growth, urbanization, and economic growth combine to exert even greater pressure on resources. At the same time, the adequacy of these resources will be impacted as the effects of climate change become more significant.

In developed countries, the three resources (energy, water and food) are readily accessible. The same cannot be said, however, for the majority of developing countries, which face difficult challenges. With most of the world’s population growth expected to occur in these countries, effective adaptation to climate change requires the efficient use of energy, water, land, and other vital resources, together with coordinated efforts to minimize trade-offs and maximize synergies. “Silo thinking” is no longer an option; energy, water and food need to be looked at as a “system.” This means the creation of a holistic approach that explicitly defines the links between the single components of the EWF nexus and understands the effect each one has on the others. Such approach helps to eliminate the unintended consequences that are common when policy makers promote an intervention in one part of the nexus and end up damaging another.

In the wider scheme of poverty eradication and sustainable development, the EWF nexus is a key component of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which identifies energy, water and food security as three of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This publication is intended as a contribution toward raising awareness of the nature of the EWF nexus challenges in developing countries and helping the development of insightful perspectives on these challenges. The pamphlet is written as an introduction to the general public and is not meant as a highly specialized treatise on the nexus issue.


Arab Development Portal website (PDF download)




OFID Pamphlet Series


Tina Schmiers


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