(C) flickr / Michael Stern
Research Papers, Publications and Books

Research // The Water, Energy And Food Nexus and Ecosystems: The Political Economy of Food and Non-food Supply Chains

By Tony Allan and Nathanial Matthews. In this article, the authors argue that the Nexus concept must incorporate a strong ecosystem stewardship component. It must shift from a focus on addressing hotspots, which is the approach that currently dominates Nexus analysis, to one that examines the uses of water, energy and food production and consumption in supply chains across the Nexus, and their impact on ecosystems. To date the hotspots approach has stimulated the engagement of the private sector supply chain players in Nexus debates, since it is these professionals who have to confront the consequences of the scarcity of water and/or energy in their operations.

Throughout this article, the authors use a political economy analysis to show how renewable and non-renewable water and energy resources are consumed and managed in long-established private sector supply chains in the food sector. These supply chains operate in, and are driven by, markets that are greatly distorted by allocative and management practices that do not account for the value of water or of the other ecosystems – the atmosphere and biodiversity – on which they depend. The authors then explore the consequences of these political economy distortions in Nexus contexts. We maintain that the upshot of Nexus systems that do not value ecosystems is that they tend to address collapses or weakness along global supply chains by looking at smaller scale hotspots, as opposed to examining these problems through a supply chain lens.


Tony Allan specializes in the analysis of water resources in semi-arid regions and on the role of global systems in ameliorating local and regional water deficits. He pointed out that water-short economies achieve water and food security mainly by importing water-intensive food commodities, and coined the concept “virtual water”. He is currently working on why the accounting systems in our food supply chain are dangerously blind to the costs of water and of misallocating it. In 2008 he was awarded the Stockholm Water Prize in recognition of his contribution to water science and water policy. In 2011 he became International Academic Correspondent of the Academy of Sciences of Spain. In 2013 he received the international Environmentalist Award from the Florence-based Bardini and Peyron Foundation, and the Monaco Water Award from Prince Albert II of Monaco.

Nathanial Matthews is the Global Research Coordinator at the CGIAR Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE). In his role with WLE, Matthews manages teams and projects across WLE’s four focal regions (West Africa, East Africa, the Ganges and the Greater Mekong) working with over 175 partners to develop scalable solutions for reducing poverty, improving food security and maintaining healthy ecosystems. A political and environmental scientist by training, Matthews has fourteen years of professional experience across business, education, research and consulting that spans over twenty countries. He is a Senior Visiting Fellow at King’s College London, a Visiting Fellow at the University of East Anglia Water Security Centre and a Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society.




The Water, Food, Energy and Climate Nexus: Challenges and an agenda for action. Edited by Felix Dodds and Jamie Bartram. London, New York 2016, pp. 78-89

› back

Peace and conflict

Project // Improving Security and Climate Resilience in a fragile Context through the Water-Energy and Food Security Nexus (Frexus)

The Frexus project fosters cross-sectoral and integrated approaches in resource management, within local communities in Mali, Niger and Chad that are faced with the consequences of resource scarcity and climate change. The vicious cycle of resource scarcity, competition, conflict and instability currently challenging many communities, can be turned into a virtuous cycle of resilience, sustainable resources management, cooperation and security. Frexus (Nexus in Fragile contexts) aims at providing...

// more

Pocket Flyer // Water, Energy and Food for All A Nexus Approach

The 2017 BMZ Water Strategy, with its six intersectoral strategies, is a binding basis for German Development Cooperation and integrates cross-sectoral thinking for economically sustainable, integrated and climatefriendly development. The Water, Agriculture and Energy Nexus is one of six intersectoral strategies, highlighting the need to achieve water, energy and food security for well-being.

// more

Publication // What-If: An Open-Source Decision Support Tool for Water Infrastructure Investment Planning within the Water–Energy–Food–Climate Nexus

By Raphaël Payet-Burin, Mikkel Kromann, Silvio Pereira-Cardenal, Kenneth Marc Strzepek and Peter Bauer-Gottwein. This paper presents a new open-source hydro-economic optimization model, incorporating in a holistic framework, representations of the water, agriculture, and power systems. The model represents the joint development of Nexus related infrastructure and policies and evaluates their economic impact, as well as the risks linked to uncertainties in future climate and socio-economic...

// more