Food, energy, and water (FEW) are primary resources required for human populations and ecosystems. Availability of the raw resources is essential, but equally important are the services that deliver resources to human populations, such as adequate access to safe drinking water, electricity, and sufficient food. Any failures in either resource availability or FEW resources‐related services will have an impact on human health. The ability of countries to intervene and overcome the challenges in the FEW domain depends on governance, education, and economic capacities.
We distinguish between FEW resources, FEW services, and FEW health outcomes to develop an analysis framework for evaluating interrelationships among these critical resources. The framework is applied using a data‐driven approach for sub‐Saharan African countries, a region with notable FEW insecurity challenges. The data‐driven approach using a cross‐validated stepwise regression analysis indicates that limited governance and socioeconomic capacity in sub‐Saharan African countries, rather than lack of the primary resources, more significantly impact access to FEW services and associated health outcomes. The proposed framework helps develop a cohesive approach for evaluating FEW metrics and could be applied to other regions of the world to continue improving our understanding of the FEW nexus.
Interestingly, most of the natural resources variables did not emerge as the most significant predictors in the statistical analyses, highlighting the general abundance of natural resources in these countries. Oil reserves were found to be important for access to improved sanitation and food production variability, highlighting the energy dependencies of these FEW services. In general, the routing of resources through the services domain was dominated by socioeconomic and governance capacity variables. GDP per capita, governance quality, and political stability were the most the prevalent for direct sectoral linkages and infrastructure‐related variables such as rail lines density and land equipped with irrigation emerged as significant in the FEW nexus analyses.
Despite the potential link between the extraction of raw FEW resources with a portion of domestic GDP as in the case of Nigeria, GDP remains an important proxy of a country's financial capacity that influences the provision of FEW services and the FEW‐related health conditions. Governance quality was also a significant correlate of diarrhea‐caused deaths in the quantitative analysis. Weak governance can result in poor quality of water services that ultimately threatens people's health. Additional support for this interpretation comes from more detailed reports for three countries. Generally, FEW‐related health outcomes were more strongly influenced by FEW services, with water and food access issues particularly impacting health in SSA; the significant relationship between food utilization and air quality, in particular, has also been demonstrated using a panel random effect regression in SSA. The analyses did not show a connection between the energy services and energy‐related health at the country level.
© 2019. The Authors.