The Water-Energy-Food Nexus in Agrifood

Water, energy and food systems are inextricably interconnected. Water and energy are needed to produce food; water is needed for almost all forms of power generation; energy is required to treat and transport water. The relationships and trade-offs within this triangle of resources are known collectively as the water-energy-food nexus.

Understanding water-energy-food inter-linkages and managing them holistically is critical to sustainability in the sector. But while some private enterprises in the agrifood sector understand the significance of the nexus – and some have already seen competitive advantages in nexus-driven solutions for sustainable crop management, processing, distribution and retailing – most do not.

REEEP has since 2012 put special emphasis on tackling the nexus, focusing in particular on the agrifood sector – the most prominent single subsector within the nexus, alone accounting for some 70% of total freshwater use, 30% of total energy demand, and 12-30% of man-made greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. With global food production expected to increase 70% by 2050, the sector is facing unprecedented resource pressures, with more on the horizon.

The cornerstone of these efforts is the nexus portfolio of the 9th Call – nine projects that demonstrated the new thinking among small and medium-sized enterprises about how nexus thinking can be both profitable and sustainable. Building upon those projects is an in-house study, commissioned by the FAO, on nexus-driven business cases within the agrifood sector. The new Powering Agrifood Value Chains portfolio specifically targets clean energy enterprise development in the sector.




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Eva Kelly Oberender's picture

Eva Kelly Oberender

Consultant, PFAN Strategy