The Water-Food-Energy Nexus: discussing solutions in Nairobi

By 2050 a global population of 9 billion will increase water demands by 55%, energy needs by 80%, and food demands by 60%. With these staggering numbers in mind, the need to carefully plan and manage the resources needed to secure these needs has never been a greater priority.

Nexus Workshop in Nairobi, Kenya

As part of the IUCN-IWA project ‘Nexus Dialogue on Water Infrastructure Solutions’, over 40 participants from river basin organisations, government, and private sector met today in Nairobi to discuss solutions, work on integrated sector approaches, and agree on a Nexus vision and action plan.

"The Nexus is our future, it is the food, water, and energy, which we depend on now and for future generations. We need to think ahead and explore cutting edge infrastructure and technology for securing water, food and energy. And these solutions may already exist in different sectors. This workshop provides an opportunity to share best practices and move from thinking towards applying them across the nexus ” said Ger Bergkamp, Director General International Water Association (IWA), during his opening remarks.

The Nairobi workshop, which is the first to take place in a series of regional workshops during 2013, focuses in particular on the Nexus for African basins.

"As Africa expands its industry and agricultural outputs, development of innovative water infrastructure that optimizes the interdependencies of water, energy and food is more and more important, especially seen the impacts of climate change and seasonal variability”, said Fred Mwango from the African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW), during his keynote address.

Indeed, in the report “Africa’s Infrastructure: A Time for Transformation” (AICD), it is estimated that towards 2020, over US$90 billion per year will be needed for water infrastructure investments in Africa. Almost half of this amount is needed to address the continent’s power supply requirements and boost Africa’s economic growth potential.

During the discussions, the development of both large-scale and small-scale irrigation schemes were raised as high priorities for Africa. And there is potential. About 1.35 million ha is estimated to be profitable for dam-based or large-scale irrigation in Africa. This brings with it huge challenges, but also opportunities.

The infrastructure opportunities for water, energy, and food production in Africa over the coming decades are enormous. As Africa could see an economic boom comparable to China’s, we cannot let this moment in time pass by without tapping into the wealth of knowledge and solutions that is out there. Learning from past experiences, including natural infrastructure and equity in the portfolio of solutions will greatly benefit plans for new, optimized and improved water infrastructures in the future”, said Mark Smith, Director IUCN Global Water Programme.

The 2-day workshop is centered around active discussions and sharing lessons amongst participants. Case studies and scenarios from the Niger, Pangani and Vaal River Basins are presented and shared, as well as group work around fictional basins bringing in different perspectives and opinions, strengthening the Nexus knowledge base and insights into water, energy and food security challenges and solutions.

To find out more about the Nexus Dialogue for Water Infrastructure Solutions, please visit

Work area: 
Climate Change
Global Policy
Social Policy
Environmental Law
East and Southern Africa
West and Central Africa
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