Food Agriculture

Optimising WEF Nexus projects in Southern Africa

Identifying priorities, integrated planning, and funding strategies for successful implementation

To promote coordinated and integrated development in the water, food and energy sectors, the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) member states have adopted a Water Energy Food (WEF) Nexus approach by planning and implementing projects that consider the interconnections between these critical areas. To this end, SADC has introduced the Regional Nexus Dialogue (NRD) programme: "Fostering dialogue on water, energy and food security linkages and multi-sectoral investment in the SADC region" within SADC’s 16 Member States: Angola, Botswana, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, United Republic Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

The core objective of this project is to strengthen the capacity of SADC countries to undertake regional and national adaptation and mitigation actions in response to the challenges of climate change. So far at least 15 countries have held national dialogues, through which priority investment projects have been identified for their countries. These Dialogues were attended by participants from high levels of government, as well as experts in the water, energy, and food sectors, all of whom demonstrated clear political will and exceptional commitment with the institutionalisation of the Nexus approach. However, these projects could be further developed, and the various countries have been working towards securing funding to ensure effective implementation.

Stateholders who attended the Tanzania WEF Nexus Dialogue

The overall objective of the Southern African Development Community Nexus Dialogue Project is to support the transformation required to meet increasing water, energy, and food security demand in the context of climate change in the SADC Region the development of an integrated nexus approach.

— Dr. Patrice Kabeya, Senior Program Officer, Water Division, Directorate of Infrastructure and Services in the SADC Secretariat at the Lesotho Nexus consultation.

The Power of National Dialogues in Driving Political Determination

The political determination of these regions to tackle the issue is commendable. To date, the Global Water Partnership Southern Africa, in collaboration with national governments, has conducted national dialogues in Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The project is currently in Phase Two which aims to institutionalize WEF Nexus and accelerate investments to enable transformation that will address water, energy, and food security in the changing climate of the SADC region. Under this phase, interventions are aimed at increasing application of the Nexus approach in planning, policymaking and implementation and increase interest from the public and private investors for projects applying the Nexus approach.

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Tailored funding projects: meeting the indivual needs of each country

The WEF Nexus technical working groups collaborated on the development of funding concept notes and proposals to mobilise funds for the implementation of the different projects.

The projects of the territories of Eswatini, Mozambique and South Africa focus on strengthening regional collaboration for the integrated management of the country's water resources, from regional springs to the sea. Additionally, Zimbabwe is preparing a concept note to mobilise funds for a detailed feasibility study to determine the success of the Kondo Chitowe hydropower upcoming project.

Other countries, such as Tanzania and Zambia, are also applying for funding through the International Climate Initiative (IKI), the Adaptation Fund and the Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa (SEFA) in order to implement sustainable initiatives. Finally, the Government of Madagascar is committed to ensuring that the Ministries of Water, Agriculture and Energy collaborate with the various stakeholders to solve the interrelated challenges in the three sectors of water, energy, and food.

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The SADC WEF Nexus Project is being implemented in two phases. The first phase commenced in 2017 and ran until 2020, which saw the development and adoption of the SADC governance framework and a WEF Nexus screening tool.

— Mrs Shamiso Kumbirai- Mlilwana, GWPSA SDG Water Investments Specialist.
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The Nexus Regional Dialogue in Southern Africa Region

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The Water-Energy-Food Nexus

The Southern African Dialogue project, co-funded by the European Union (EU), is implemented by the Global Water Partnership-Southern Africa (GWP-SA) in collaboration with the Southern African Development Community (SADC). It promotes the Water-Energy-Food (WEF) Nexus approach within the region to address interdependencies between the sectors and ensure the sustainable management of water, energy and food resources.

The WEF Nexus approach focuses on negotiating trade-offs, inspiring compromises and uncovering synergies to ensure water, energy and food security in the long run. It further promotes policy coherence and cooperation between all three sectors at the regional, local and global level. Since 2020, the Nexus Regional Dialogues Programme in Southern Africa has been working across the region to institutionalise the Water-Energy-Food Nexus in public policy and planning in addition to demonstration projects that demonstrate the added value of the WEF Nexus, capacity building activities and the identification of financing opportunities.

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Multilateral Dialogues of the SADC

Moreover, Lesotho is developing a $20 million Green Climate Fund (GCF) to strengthen knowledge and capacity for the implementation of development projects in the country. The 10th SADC Multilateral Dialogue, held Maseru, provided a forum for water professionals and related sectors to discuss pertinent issues on deepening regional integration and poverty reduction in the region. The objective of the forum was geared towards ensuring the region's ability to harness its water resources to contribute to sustainable regional integration, poverty eradication and socio-economic development.

One the one hand, solving these challenges one by one will be costly and time consuming, which is why SADC advocates the need to implement the WEF Nexus. On the other, threats in any of the WEF sectors will have a negative impact on other sectors, such as health. However, in order to ensure all works well it, good coordination is required at all levels, as well as political will, enabling policy environment, balancing trade-offs, and building on synergies to address competing resources use and breaking the silo mentality. It also needs to ensure that gender equality and social inclusion budgeting is integrated into initiatives promoting ecosystem resilience and water, energy, and food security at all levels.


We aimed to identify national Water-Energy-Food (WEF) nexus priorities and showcase the benefits of how improved sectoral coordination can accelerate national investment opportunities”- Mr Duncan David Samikwa, Senior Program Officer.


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From theory to practice

The National Dialogues have undoubtedly helped Southern African countries to identify some key challenges that hinder the implementation of an integrated WEF approach, such as inadequate financing and incapacitated governance structures, that tend to limit private sector participation in investment planning in the three sectors.

To ensure sustainability, priority projects have been added to the SADC WEF investment portfolio, where various regional instruments such as the Africa Water Investment Programme (AIP), the Great Green Wall Initiative (GGWI) and the SADC Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan (RIDMP) will be used to mobilise funds for the implementation of these projects.

Generally, the Dialogues called for the need to move beyond theoretical analysis and academic formulation of concepts to action and the application of such knowledge in decision-making.

More Information

  • GWP-SA

    The Global Water Partnership Southern Africa offers practical support for sustainably managing water resources to 16 countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. Find more information here.

  • The Nexus Regional Dialogue in Southern Africa

    Find more information about recent news articles resources and activities of the Nexus Regional Dialogue in Southern Africa here.

  • The Nexus Regional Dialogues Programme

    Find more information about the Nexus Regional Dialogues Programme and its activities in other regions here.

  • The Nexus Training Material

    The WEF training material shall contribute to an increased application of the WEF Nexus approach in planning, policymaking and implementation. Find more information here.

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