The water-energy-food nexus has become an increasingly popular way to frame the challenges associated with reconciling human development objectives with responsible management of natural resources and ecosystems.
Yet the nexus is complex, requiring effective engagement between expert and Non-expert stakeholders in order to understand biophysical inter-linkages between resources and resource flows and social interactions between different actors in the socio-ecological system and landscape. This can be a substantial challenge due to varying levels of knowledge and understanding amongst actors with divergent, and often entrenched, interests.
Drawing on completed and on-going research applying a “nexus toolkit” in Ethiopia and Rwanda respectively, the authors contribute to a generalized conceptual framework for addressing, communicating, and assessing the water-energy-food nexus, with a particular focus on how to utilize the nexus concept in practice.
This framework has significant potential to help better understand interactions at landscape level, for example, between charcoal production, food production, and environmental systems. The authors find that participatory scenario-building processes that facilitate engagement beyond technical aspects to include social, economic and political concerns provide a valuable space for discussing and negotiating development pathways that are sustainable both biophysically and socio-economically.
In addition, the involvement of stakeholders throughout the project process greatly enhances the quality and legitimacy of results. The authors suggest that by building capacity amongst stakeholders to maintain a quantitative “nexus toolkit,” it has a better chance of informing decision-making and for supporting the development of more technically refined analyses of alternative decisions and management strategies.
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