Volume 31, Issue 3

September 2015
Special Issue on The Water-Food-Energy-Climate Nexus in Global Drylands

Introduction »

The water–food–energy nexus: an introduction to nexus concepts and some conceptual and operational problems

Tony Allan, Martin Keulertz & Eckart Woertz

Research Article

Financial challenges of the nexus: pathways for investment in water, energy and agriculture in the Arab world

Martin Keulertza* and Eckart Woertzb
aDepartment for Agricultural and Biological Engineering, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, USA; bBarcelona Centre for International Affairs, Barcelona, Spain

Contact: Martin Keulertz | Email: mkeulert@purdue.edu


The Water–Energy –Food (WEF) nexus is a development challenge in the Arab world, particularly in the ‘core nexus countries’ with low to mid-incomes in which limited water endowments permit agricultural production, such as Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Lebanon, Algeria, Sudan and Jordan. The WEF nexus is often conceptualized in mere technocratic terms, yet politics matter in the implementation of projects that address it. Internalizing hydrological externalities or leaving them as they are and financing them as a public good requires states whose capacities have been reduced as a result of neoliberal reform. The article explores five different pathways of how Arab countries could finance green growth projects ranging from regional financial markets to concessionary loans by funds from oil rich Gulf countries.

Pages: 312-325


Research Article

Food-water security and virtual water trade in the Middle East and North Africa

Marta Antonellia* and Stefania Tameab
Department of Design and Planning in Complex Environment, University IUAV of Venice, Venice, Italy; bDepartment of Environment, Land and Infrastructure Engineering, Politecnico di Torino, Turin, Italy

Contact: Marta Antonelli | Email: martaantonelli84@gmail.com


The purpose of this study is to analyze the political economy of food-water security in the water-scarce Middle East and North Africa region. The study deploys the lens of virtual water trade to determine how the region’s economies have met their rising food-water requirements over the past three decades. It is shown that the region’s water and food security currently depend to a considerable extent on water from outside the region, ‘embedded’ in food imports and accessed through trade. The analysis includes blue (surface and groundwater) and green water resources.

Pages: 326-342


Research Article

Rapid assessment of the water–energy–food–climate nexus in six selected basins of North Africa and West Asia undergoing transitions and scarcity threats

Caroline Kinga,b,c* and Hadi Jaafard
aCentre for the Environment, School of Geography and the Environment, Oxford University, UK; bEcosystems and Human Development Association, Alexandria, Egypt; cInternational Institute for Environment and Development, Edinburgh, UK; dDepartment of Agriculture, Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences, American University of Beirut, Lebanon

Contact: Caroline King | Emails: caroline.king@ouce.ox.ac.uk, caroline.king-okumu@iied.org


Existing strategies for management of water scarcity in the Middle East and North Africa negotiate a complex system of trade-offs between water, energy, and food production. The effects of rural households’ green water management practices on basin-level water, energy, food and carbon stocks and flows are sketched qualitatively in six basin agro-ecosystems. The case for increased strategic support for green agricultural water management practices appears stronger when weighed from the nexus perspective, rather than purely from the point of view of water balance and food production. Trade-offs under critical transitions affecting agricultural water use are explored, and the scope for quantitative monitoring is discussed.

Pages: 343-359


Research Article

The nexus as a political commodity: agricultural development, water policy and elite rivalry in Egypt

Harry Verhoevena,b*
aDepartment of Politics & International Relations, University of Oxford, UK; bSchool of Foreign Service (Qatar), Georgetown University, Washington, DC, USA

Contact: Harry Verhoeven | Email: harry.verhoeven@politics.ox.ac.uk


Thinking of the interconnections between water, food, energy and climate is nothing new in the Nile Basin; it has long been anchored in political struggles. For 200 years, Egypt’s political economy has been defined by water use patterns and food security strategies that debunk the technocratic myth that rapid growth, interaction with global markets and technological modernization eliminate poor governance practices and allocative inefficiencies. In contrast, the prism of the nexus as a political commodity illuminates one of modern Egypt’s most consequential dialectics: the interaction between the very particular nexus at the heart of the country’s political economy, forged through factional strife and sustained by outside discourses and interests, and the economic and ecological ravages of this elite politics. Egyptian history serves as a warning. Today’s conversation needs to be deconstructed in terms of how different forms of interconnectivity between water, energy and food are produced and experienced by different social groups. It reminds us to take interconnections not as given, but rather as contested and contestable outcomes from which opportunities for adaptation and transformation do not naturally emerge, but need to be struggled for.

Pages: 360-374


Research Article

Nexus meets crisis: a review of conflict, natural resources and the humanitarian response in Darfur with reference to the water –energy – food nexus

Brendan Bromwich*
Department of Geography, King’s College London, UK

Contact: Brendan Bromwich | Email: brendan.bromwich@kcl.ac.uk


Darfur has been widely used as a case study by both those arguing for causality between environmental scarcity and war and those disputing it. This article challenges that approach by drawing on debates taking place within Darfur, reflecting on both the conflict and the humanitarian response. It argues that reviewing Darfur on its own terms makes a stronger basis to identify transferable lessons for interventions elsewhere. It considers water, food and energy, and finds that supporting governance is an essential theme for promoting economic recovery and laying a foundation for a well-managed water –energy– food nexus.

Pages: 375-392


Research Article

To what end? Drip irrigation and the water –energy – food nexus in Morocco

Guy Jobbinsa*, Jack Kalpakianb, Abdelouahid Chriyaac, Ahmed Legrourib and El Houssine El Mzouric
aOverseas Development Institute, London, United Kingdom; bAl Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco; cInstitut National de la Recherche Agronomique, Settat, Morocco

Contact: Guy Jobbins | Email: g.jobbins@odi.org.uk


This article draws on three case studies of drip irrigation adoption in Morocco to consider the water –energy– food nexus concept from a bottom-up perspective. Findings indicate that small farmers’ adoption of drip irrigation is conditional, that water and energy efficiency does not necessarily reduce overall consumption, and that adoption of drip irrigation (and policies supporting it) can create winners and losers. The article concludes that, although the water –energy– food WEF nexus concept may offer useful insights, its use in policy formulation should be tempered with caution. Technical options that appear beneficial at the conceptual level can have unintended consequences in practice, and policies focused on issues of scarcity and efficiency may exacerbate other dimensions of poverty and inequality.

Pages: 393-406


Research Article

Virtual-water content of agricultural production and food trade balance of Tunisia

Jamel Chaheda*, Mustapha Besbesa and Abdelkader Hamdaneb
aUniversité Tunis El Manar, Ecole Nationale d’Ingénieurs de Tunis, Tunisia; bUniversité de Carthage, Institut National Agronomique de Tunis, Tunisia

Contact: Jamel Chahed | Email: jamel.chahed@enit.rnu.tn


This article is devoted to the assessment of Tunisian agricultural production and food trade balance water-equivalent. A linear regression model relating annual rainfall to crop yields is developed to estimate the agricultural production water-equivalent. Its implementation is based on national data for crop and animal production, leading to food demand water-equivalent quantification. Results highlight the relationship between agricultural and water policies and provide a picture of food security in the country in relation to local agricultural production, and to virtual water fluxes related to foodstuffs trade balance.

Pages: 407-421


Research Article

Energy cost of irrigation policy in Morocco: a social accounting matrix assessment

Mohammed Rachid Doukkalia* and Caroline Lejarsa,b
aSocial Science Department, Institut National Agronomique Hassan II (IAV Hassan II), Al Irfane, Rabat, Morocco; bUMR-GEAU, Centre de Coopération International en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement, Montpellier, France

Contact: Mohammed Rachid Doukkali | Email: mr.doukkali@iav.ac.ma


The objective of this study was to assess the consumption and the multiplier effect of the use of energy and irrigation water for rainfed and irrigated agriculture at the national level in Morocco. Using a social accounting matrix, the direct and indirect economic effects of subsidizing energy used by agriculture were identified. The results show that irrigation water policy in Morocco, which targets ‘water-saving’ techniques, has increased the use of subsidized energy and that indirect effects, through energy subsidies, exceed the direct effects of agricultural subsidies. A social accounting matrix can help decision makers make the necessary trade-offs between irrigated and rainfed agriculture.

Pages: 422-435


Research Article

Impact of the Syrian conflict on irrigated agriculture in the Orontes Basin

Hadi H. Jaafara*, Rami Zuraykb, Caroline Kingc, Farah Ahmadd and Rami Al-Outad
aDepartment of Agriculture, Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences, American University of Beirut, Lebanon; bDepartment of Landscape and Ecosystem Management, Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences, American University of Beirut, Lebanon; cSchool of Geography and the Environment, Oxford University Centre for the Environment, UK; dDepartment of Agriculture and Department of Landscape and Ecosystem Management, Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences, American University of Beirut, Lebanon

Contact: Hadi H. Jaafar | Email: hj01@aub.edu.lb


The impact of conflict on irrigated agriculture and consequently summer crop production within conflict-affected agricultural lands was observed in the Orontes Basin. Water and energy use were reconfigured through a transition from rainfed to irrigated agricultural production over the past 20 years, but have been disrupted as the Syrian war has unfolded since 2011. Remotely sensed vegetation indices were used to determine irrigated summer crop yields during the year 2013. Findings suggest that irrigated agricultural production dropped between 15% and 30% in the Syrian portion of the basin in 2000– 2013, with hotspots identifiable in Idleb, Homs, Hama, Daraa and Aleppo. The developed approach demonstrated effectiveness in quantifying and geolocating hotspots where conflicts have the strongest impact on agricultural water use, agricultural production, and eventually support relief and regional agricultural reconstruction in this and other conflict regions.

Pages: 436-449


Research Article

Climate change and food-water supply from Africa’s drylands: local impacts and teleconnections through global commodity flows

Mark Mulligan*
Department of Geography, King’s College London, UK

Contact: Mark Mulligan | Email: mark.mulligan@kcl.ac.uk


This article uses the WaterWorld Policy Support System, coupled with a global database for commodity flows, to examine the impacts of AR4 SRES climate change scenarios on Africa’s drylands and the commodity flows that originate from them. It shows that changes to precipitation and, to a lesser extent, temperature in Africa’s drylands can significantly affect the potential to supply water-for-food locally and internationally. By comparing the geographical distribution of climate change with the supply chain –connected distribution of climate change, it shows how food-water impacts of climate change may affect local dryland populations but also those dependent on these flows from afar.

Pages: 450-460


Research Article

Towards a water –energy – food nexus policy: realizing the blue and green virtual water of agriculture in Jordan

Samer Talozia*, Yasmeen Al Sakajib and Amelia Altz-Stammc
aCivil Engineering Department, Jordan University of Science and Technology, Irbid; bBioenvironmental and Irrigation Engineering, Jordan University of Science and Technology, Irbid; cLyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin, USA

Contact: Samer Talozi | Email: samerbse@just.edu.jo


Virtual water is an important addendum to how we view a country’s water resources. This study examines the virtual water embedded in Jordan’s agricultural produce and its impact on future water –energy– food policies. Blue and green virtual waters are calculated from data on rainfall, crop patterns, yields, and water requirements at the district level. Results highlight the advantages of blue water usage in the Jordan Valley and of harnessing more available green water in the Highlands, with both displaying low energy impact. Results also emphasize the high groundwater usage and energy footprint in the Desert regions, signalling a need to rein in groundwater extraction and take advantage of solar power.

Pages: 461-482