ICID.org: Five years after the Bonn Nexus Conference – Implications for Irrigation and drainage

The water–food–energy nexus offers an unprecedented opportunity for change in agricultural water management.

The water–food–energy nexus offers an unprecedented opportunity for change in agricultural water management. IWMI’s Director General, Jeremy Bird, delivered a keynote address on this topic at the 2nd World Irrigation Forum, held at Chiang Mai, Thailand, November 2016. The International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage (ICID) recently published an extract of the keynote presentation.

It is increasingly clear that if the world is going to reduce hunger and eradicate poverty in the face of climate change, then not only is achieving security for water, energy and food for people critical, but in doing so a far more integrated and cross-sector planning framework will be needed. The water, energy and food sectors are intimately connected in important ways: actions in one sector inevitably affect the others and each interacts with the natural environment. The way water is sourced, treated, priced and distributed influences energy requirements; dietary choices affect water and energy demands; production of biofuels can displace food production. Focusing on food production automatically puts an emphasis on water use, but also on how energy is utilized in these systems.

In November 2011 the German government hosted the innovative Bonn Nexus Conference to highlight the inter-dependencies amongst water, food and energy within a broader development context. The Nexus conference goals sought to demonstrate the value in adopting a new approach to planning and management that takes into account the inter-connectivity between sectors, not only to benefit from more cost effective approaches, but also to avoid the consequences of unintended negative impacts. The Bonn 2011 policy recommendations have implications for irrigation, namely increasing policy coherence, accelerating access, creating more with less, valuing natural infrastructure and mobilizing consumer influence. As we have so often seen though, the mere presence of policy
frameworks alone is unlikely to bring needed benefits unless accompanied by incentive mechanisms that bring about change. That is what this presentation at the WIF2 set out to examine. The catalyst for change will come from two recent global agreements. Although following a relatively sectoral approach, there is broad recognition that the individual Sustainable Development Goals are heavily interconnected. Add to that the funding opportunities associated with the Paris climate agenda, there is a tremendous opportunity to bring about change. The fact that both these international commitments have been agreed at the highest level provides hope that societies will embrace a more coordinated and integrated approach. It will however require pragmatism to focus on the most critical points of inter-dependency – and the water–food–energy nexus provides a good starting point.


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