event 20 Feb 2020

Publication // The Water-Food-Energy Nexus: Insights into resilient development

By SAB Miller and WWF (World Wildlife Fund). This collaborative report looks at 16 countries or states, comparing the ways in which their development patterns have managed their different mixes of resources and different capacities to make use of those resources.


WWF and SABMiller have a shared interest in strengthening the institutions that govern the way society manages and develops water, food and energy resources. For WWF, this is close to the heart of our mission: conservation is inseparable from the challenges of changing patterns of resource use. For SABMiller, this is a question of the viability of our business: good quality drinking water and agricultural products are vital for a brewing company – and essential for the societies within which we operate.

So the risk of resource scarcity is a shared risk. We see that shared risk becoming more acute under changing consumption patterns and demographic pressures. The ambitious drive towards rapid development has often missed a fundamental dimension of progress, which we believe is essential to enable us to respond collectively to shared risks. Building the resilience of our water, food and energy systems is an essential and neglected part of development. Resilience is the ability to withstand shocks and pressures, whether economic,

climatic or demographic in nature. Ultimately both national development strategies and business strategies need to be designed around resilience. Nexus policymaking is about designing resilient government or business strategies in ways that take account of the connections between food, water and energy systems. It starts by recognising the interdependence of those systems, and hence challenges single-sector approaches that can have substantial unintended consequences for a country’s future development options.

Key messages

From our research we have concluded that the most resilient economic systems combine robust infrastructure, flexible institutions and functioning natural capital. The case studies propose areas in which policymakers have particular levers for responding to nexus challenges in order to bring about resilience. They suggest policy makers should:

• Integrate all aspects of development planning, in particular ensuring that water, energy and agricultural sector planning are not done in isolation, but consider how each can contribute to the resilience of the others;

• Design institutions for resilience, in ways that strengthen cooperation and coordinated decision-making;

• Use economic and regulatory instruments to strengthen the incentives and requirements for building resilience into water, food and energy systems;

• Use trade, regional integration and foreign policy to manage nexus trade-offs more effectively, and contribute further to resilience at both country and global levels. Generic policy prescriptions under these headings will not work in every context. The first lesson of the country case studies is that the nexus plays out radically differently in different settings, and responses by both governments and businesses need to be similarly rooted in the context.




© SAB Miller and WWF


SAB Miller and WWF (2014). The Water-Food-Energy Nexus: Insights into resilient development

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