Unpacking the water, food and energy nexus

The sixth SADC Multi-Stakeholder Water Dialogue was held on 1-2 October 2013 at the Intercontinental Hotel in Lusaka, Zambia. The dialogue was sponsored by DANIDA and other cooperating partners (German Cooperation, Australian Aid, UK Aid).

Although a number of policy instruments have been developed at the regional level-which take into cognisance the nexus approach – like the SADC RISDP, the SADC Regional Water Policy etc, it has been recognised that more needs to be done in breaking down silos towards integrated planning and implementation of development imperatives by addressing the interconnections within the Water, Energy and Food nexus. To address this regional challenge, the 6th SADC Multi-stakeholder Water Dialogue brought together 170 participants. These included Directors in Government Departments of Energy, Agriculture and Water; and other selected ministry representatives including Finance & Economic Planning, Health, and Environment.

The Dialogue was also attended by representatives from civil society, private sector, International Cooperation Partners (ICPs) and the media to engage on the region’s development challenges by addressing. The 6th SADC Multi-Stakeholder Water Dialogue held under the theme: “Watering Development in SADC: Exploring the water, energy and food nexus, served three main objectives:

·         To create awareness and understanding of the “Water, Energy and Food Nexus” and why

·          To discuss concrete project examples from the region with a wide range of stakeholders from the three sectors, thus facilitating future collaboration and motivating political uptake of the nexus concept in Southern Africa.

·         To ensure that the nexus approach finds consideration at the highest level, in the countries and the region as well as ensuring that the regional perspective and cooperation are taken heed of when planning at national level. The audience comprised

 The discussions at the dialogue focused on developing infrastructure and institutions that can use the current resource endowment in order to grow economies. According to the SADC Secretariat Senior Programme Officer, Mr. Phera Ramoeloi, it was noted that the nexus perspective provides an opportunity to help the SADC region to apply the Integrated Water Resources Management concept as well as integration and cooperation in the management of water resources for its various uses and demands particularly for energy and food security.

In his opening speech, the Deputy Minister, Ministry of Mines, Energy and Water, Hon Charles K. Zulu, who officiated the dialogue as guest of honour on behalf of the Minister, Hon. Christopher Yaluma, emphasized the importance of the interaction in driving development in the SADC region. The Deputy Minister further stated the need for a good understanding of the Water, Energy and Food nexus for the various stakeholders to move from discussion to implementation. A practical example of the nexus in the Kafue Flats, was given in the Deputy Minister’s speech:

“As you may be aware, we have a storage reservoir upstream and a hydro-power station downstream of the Kafue flats. In between, we have some of the biggest food producing areas, producing crops such as sugarcane and also livestock. The Water resources in the Kafue Flats are very important to the economic development of the country especially the production of food and hydro-power.”

The keynote speech, delivered by Bai Mass Taal, Executive Secretary, African Ministers Council on Water, emphasised the need for the nexus and also highlighted the difficulties in working across the silo structures. In his keynote speech, he noted that:

“The relationships between the sectors are as old as creation itself, but attention on the diverse effects is becoming increasingly critical and evident. This is so because the times are difficult; we are now in a time when we are witnessing escalating demands on these resources due to multiplying populations and rapid urban migrations”

Through presentations and panel discussions held in the latter part of day 1, the dialogue unpacked the meaning of the nexus approach and what it means for the SADC region – the following are some of the key issues that came from the presentations and the plenary sessions:

*        The nexus approach and IWRM are not mutually exclusive

*        The nexus approach is a tool and not a dogma

*        The nexus approach provides the region with an opportunity for coherent and well planned development and use of water, energy and food resources

*        Both policy and economic instruments (like pricing) are important in driving the nexus approach.

Day two of the dialogue focused on exploring some examples of how the nexus approach is being implemented at the different scales – looking at understanding what is enabling this interaction, the challenges and the institutional and policy implications. This was done through case studies at the local and national level, and included presentations on:

  • - Local Case Study on the Nexus Interaction in the eThekwini Municipality
    - Interactions between water, food and energy in the wildlife sector
    - National government and private sector response – South Africa Water Partnership Network
    - Swaziland experience – Water, food and energy nexus in the sugar industry

A panel discussion was held in the afternoon of the second day to better understand the “how” - how can we make the nexus approach work? What frameworks are needed to make the nexus work? Overall, the dialogue concluded on the following issues:

·         Need to work with champions at different levels who can drive the nexus (like development planning at the national level and trade at the regional level)

·         For planning and implementation of the nexus there is need to create integrated platforms working within existing institutions. There is also need to deepen the understanding of how these mechanisms can function at the different levels – learning from where its working

·         Private sector as a main user of the resource will need to be engaged actively in the nexus discussion. However, clear policies and regulations for engagement– in order to protect the social responsibilities. The meeting recognised the work of the Water Stewardship Programme being implemented by SADC and GiZ as a sure way of addressing engagement with private sector

·         To be able to drive the nexus approach there is need to look at the potential of expanding the mandates of regional institutions like the RBOs.

·         There is need to develop clear policies for integrative research on the nexus approach.  In setting the research agenda there is need to bring the different sectors and players together from the on-set, build capacity on integrated research, build partnerships that will drive the nexus approach, and develop coordinating mechanisms for research strategy.

·         There is need to highlight the importance of the ecosystem in the nexus approach – through knowledge sharing and recognising the role that the environment plays as a user and source of the resource.

·         There is a need to understand the consequences of interventions in the different sectors - by looking at the whole system. The nexus should therefore be linked with climate variability and climate change issues – in seeking ways the nexus can contribute to building climate resilience.

·         Need to learn from the development trajectory pathways of emerging markets (like China, Brazil and India) to influence decisions now on how to deal with the nexus issue.

The dialogue resulted in commitments to take immediate steps to speed up regional integrated planning and implementation of nexus issues. The stakeholders agreed to taking the following steps forward:

·           Look at ways to institutionalise the nexus approach (for example in the Energy policy)

·           Elevate the nexus discussion to the ministers in charge of water, energy and food

·           Take the outcomes of this water dialogue beyond the WRTC – to other sectors energy and agriculture

·           Communicate the incentives for coordination and cooperation – by highlighting the impact of not cooperating

·           Take forward the nexus discussion to the national level – national water weeks

GWP SA supports SADC in organising the SADC Multi-stakeholder Water Dialogue every two years; except prior to 2012 when the dialogue was held annually.

Read archived twitter feeds on the 6th SADC Multi-Stakeholder Dialogue on @sadcwater ; https://twitter.com/sadcwater

Read outcome reports from previous dialogues