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Research Papers, Publications and Books

Towards a Relational Understanding of the Water-Energy-Food Nexus // Analysis of Embeddedness and Governance in the Upper Blue Nile Region of Ethiopia

By Christian Stein, Claudia Pahl-Wostl, Jennie Barron. Given the need for transformative changes towards more sustainable, integrated management of water, energy and food systems, the water-energy-food nexus concept seems highly relevant. However, while intuitively compelling, the nexus has also been criticized for abstracting and thereby dis-embedding the collaboration processes through which further integration could be achieved. There is a lack of empirical analysis and context-sensitive understanding, of the opportunities and constraints of, collaboration and cross-sector coordination, as faced by actors governing interconnected water, energy and food systems.

In this paper, the authors analyse how actors involved in the governance of water, energy and food systems are embedded in social networks, and discuss how that embeddedness shapes collaboration and coordination processes that are relevant for addressing interconnected sustainability challenges. Drawing on the notion of problemsheds, they delineate an analytical space that captures the interactions between water, energy and food systems and the actors influencing them in the Upper Blue Nile of Ethiopia. Their empirical data suggest that the claim that actors from different sectors are disconnected from each other is overly simplistic. The ways in which actors are embedded in hierarchical structures may help to explain why coordination challenges persist, despite the presence of cross-sectoral linkages among them.


  • Embeddedness shapes opportunities and constraints for cross-sectoral collaboration.
  • Problematises technocratic approaches for addressing nexus challenges.
  • Cross-sectoral relationships are intertwined with hierarchical power structures.
  • Boundaries for nexus analysis need to be contextualised rather than imposed.


ScienceDirect website (e-purchase) 


Available online 22 February 2018


Environmental Science & Policy, Elsevier. 
In Press, Corrected Proof. 

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Presentation // Nexus Message on Water-Energy-Food-Climate Through an Urban Lens

By Felix Dodds. Held at the HLPF Side event on "Addressing Resilience through the Nexus of Water-Food-Energy – Cities as SDG Laboratories", 17 July 2018, at United Nations Headquarters, part of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) 2018

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Solar-powered Irrigation Systems (SPIS)

Return on Investment Case Study // Accelerating Solar Water Pump Sales in Kenya

This Return on Investment case study by Winrock International shows an increase in gross profits of up to 186% within one to two crop seasons after purchase of a solar water pump (SWP) for smallholder farmers in Kenya. Between August 2015 and December 2016 Winrock demonstrated SWPs to more than 16,000 of such smallholder farmers and found that despite strong demand, the lack of smallholder credit options for solar irrigation is a key obstacle preventing SWP sales from increasing rapidly;...

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Urban Nexus

Making Sense of the Urban Nexus // An Integrated Approach to Intersecting Challenges

By Giulia Salvaterra and Michael Woodbridge. Cities are sites of complex and intersecting challenges which threaten the success of the global sustainable development agenda. All over the world, cities face persistent challenges related to increasing climate- and weather-related impacts, insufficient infrastructure, sustained poverty and inequality, resource scarcity, and sustainable service provision. Finding solutions to these challenges will be made even more difficult by growth and migratory...

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