Tackling the water, energy and food nexus in Africa

Barbara Schreiner

The water, energy and food (WEF) nexus is an ongoing debate in Southern and East Africa, along with the view that integrated planning is critical to tackling the problem. As mentioned in our recent feature, water plays a vital role in both food and energy production; energy is required for food production (especially irrigation) and for water supply; and for adequate food production there is a need for land, energy, and water.

On a dry, sunny Monday, 20th June, SADC Ministers on Energy and Water gathered in Gaborone, Botswana, to discuss the issues of water and energy in the region. The President of Botswana set the scene in his opening address, pointing out that energy and water are critical to economic development, regional integration and poverty reduction in SADC. He highlighted the relationship between water, energy and food security, and called on the workshop to look at:

  • how to manage the impact of drought on water and energy,
  • how to improve water and energy security in the region,
  • why SADC continues to find itself unprepared for extreme events and how to turn this around, and how to develop an optimal energy mix including cleaner energy sources across the region
President Khama

Photo credit: SADC

Kenya is similarly vulnerable to drought, with 80% of the population being rural and dependent on agriculture for livelihoods. 98% of agricultural production in Kenya is dependant on rainfall, so that poor rains have devastating impacts on rural communities. 80% of Kenya’s population depend on fuel wood or charcoal for domestic energy consumption and this demand is having a major impact on water availability: between 2000 and 2010, deforestation in Kenya’s water towers amounted to an estimated 50,000 hectares, leading to reduced water availability of approximately 62 million m3 per year, impacting on both irrigation and hydropower generation. The water-energy-food (WEF) nexus plays out in Kenya in similar ways to Southern Africa, and the questions raised by President Khama are pertinent to the Kenyan situation as well.

The Pegasys Institute, in partnership with the Institute for Development Studies of the University of Sussex, and Losai Management from Kenya, have been conducting research in Kenya on the opportunities for enhancing integrated WEF planning at the county level and between county and national levels. As part of this, we conducted training for county officials and civil society representatives in WEF planning approaches, and decision-making in the context of climate change uncertainty. The training was conducted in May, and resulted in a high level of excitement from participants and a desire to go back to their counties and to implement a more integrated approach to planning.

Next week, the same group of people will come back together to share their experiences in implementing integrated WEF planning approaches at the county level. This will provide important lessons for how best to implement integrated planning approaches in government and the kinds of challenges that officials experience in working outside their siloes. We’ll let you know after the workshop what the results and lessons are!

Written by Admin on 23 June 2016