event 12 Jul 2021

Project // Nexusing water, energy and food to increase resilience in the Cape Town metropolitan region

The project is part of the Merian Fund that encourages cooperation between Dutch and South Africa academic institutions and is funded by the NWO (Netherlands) and NRF (South Africa). The project aims to explore ways to improve the capacity of Cape Town’s urban residents and authorities to prepare for, cope with, and learn from resource crises in the city through more integrated infrastructure planning. Guiding questions are how can water, energy and food governance systems be better coordinated to increase urban sustainability, and how do the Netherlands and South Africa compare in this regard?

Vrouwen op markt AUSAID SOUTH AFRICA Flickr CC web

© Nexusing Water, Energy and Food to Increase Resilience Project

Project Background

The South African National Research Foundation (NRF) together with the Dutch Research Council (NWO), under the Cooperation South Africa-Netherlands Programme, are funding research to support studies on solutions that balance trade-offs and amplify synergies between the water, energy, and food sectors while simultaneously preserving the environment.

Apart from academic research on the “Water-Energy-Food (WEF) Nexus”, the objective of this collaborative effort is to explore application-oriented solutions across the Water-Energy-Food (WEF) nexus, develop practical guidelines, and support decision and policymakers towards sustainable planning and practices, strategies and policies.

It is under this cooperation that an interdisciplinary team is carrying out a 3-year study (January 2021 – December 2023) on the WEF nexus approach in Cape Town. The study will propose a set of recommendations on a more nuanced view of the interconnected nature of water, energy and food sectors and a WEF nexus as an approach that can address interconnectedness and governance of water, energy, and food sectors to strengthen the resilience of Cape Town.

Nexusing Water, Energy, and Food in Cape Town

This research is concerned with improving the capacity of urban residents, the economy and public authorities to prepare for, cope with, and learn from, the resource crises affecting Cape Town. An ongoing water crisis has led to citywide water-rationing, the city has witnessed several power blackouts due to an energy crisis, and food insecurity is endemic in low-income areas. These challenges are increasingly complex and require better coordination among multiple stakeholders from the energy, water and food sectors. Applying a ‘Water-energy-food nexus approach’, this project explores how such coordination could be organized to support Cape Town’s resilience strategy.

Cape Town faces a triple exposure to interrelated WEF crises which cannot be effectively addressed in a segmented way.

  • Conventional Responses: Focus on individual domains. Better coordination and new approaches across multiple domains are needed
  • Vulnerabilities (and solutions) inherent to WEF crises materialize unevenly across the Cape Town metropolitan region
  • Urban policies must address complex geographies of WEF supply and demand (i.e. place-based crises within the city region and beyond, multi-dimensional nature of how WEF crises interact)
  • Not only is better coordination across multiple WEF-related domains needed, but also better coordination across the different levels (household strategies, neighbourhood-level responses, regional/metropolitan strategies, legal/regulatory coordination across different policy levels)

The project proposes to develop a water, energy, and food (WEF) nexus as an approach to increasing resilience capabilities in the Cape Town Metropolitan region. This will be done by achieving the following objectives:

  • Identifying principles for approaching the WEF nexus for Cape Town
  • Assessing the multi-dimensional interaction of water, energy, and food systems
  • Exploring how water, energy, and food domains shape and are shaped six local sites
  • Exploring the institutional and legal challenges shaping the governance of the WEF nexus
  • Developing recommendations and policy briefs to inform nexus practices

Overall, a WEF nexus approach aims to improve integrated governance of water, energy, and food systems and therefore increasing the capacity of urban residents and public authorities to prepare for, cope with, and learn from, the resource crises affecting Cape Town.

Project Website

For more information visit the project website.


Principal investigators
Prof. Jochen Monstadt: j.monstadt@uu.nl
Prof. Mark Swilling: swilling@spl.sun.ac.za

Project coordinators
Ms Amanda Gcanga: amanda@wcedp.co.za
Dr Shaun Smith: s.r.smith@uu.nl

Further Reading

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