Since the 2011 Bonn Nexus Conference, the Nexus Water, Energy and Food Security has resulted in new inter-sectoral collaboration in German development co-operation. In expert talks towards the end of November, preparations were also made for collaboration with science.
Progressive climate change requires a reassessment of development co-operation and environmental policy approaches. Water, energy and food for a constantly growing population, fundamentally important resources for humankind, are particularly affected by climate change. The use of these three resources is closely interconnected, and it has to be understood comprehensively and independently of sectoral approaches. It is against this background that the German Federal Government organised the “Water, Energy and Food Security Nexus” conference in late 2011, the aim being to discuss the Nexus notion at global level. Since then, events have been run on the Nexus and climate change topic in various world regions.
With this brief review, Franz-Birger Marré of the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) summarised the young history of the Nexus approach during an expert discussion of “Deutsche Gesellschaft für internationale Zusammenarbeit” (GIZ) in Eschborn towards the end of November, and he pointed to changes in approaches at his institution and in the implementing agencies GIZ and “KfW Entwicklungsbank” towards increasing co-operation between the sectors of water, energy and agriculture. The aim of the GIZ expert discussion, which was held in the context of the “EZ trifft Wissenschaft” (bringing together development co-operation and science), was to involve science and invite it to present already existing experience and solution proposals.
The presentations given by the scientists who had been invited showed that the Nexus approach is still in its infancy. Professor Lars Ribbe reported on a research focus called “Nexus Water, Energy and Food Security” at the “Fachhochschule Köln” (Cologne University of Applied Science), which is to assume a concrete form in early 2013. The Institute of Technology and Resource Management in the Tropics and Subtropics (ITT), which is directed by Ribbe, has already been applying interdisciplinary approaches in the field of sustainable land use for some time, integrating an efficient use of energy and sustainable land use. This programme is also communicating intensively with the University of Jordan in Amman, and is supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, Ribbe told the meeting. One of ITT’s activities is to run Master’s programmes on the topics of Technology and Resources Management in the Tropics and Subtropics and Integrated Water Resources Management.
In the context of an efficient use of water, energy and land, considerable attention is being given to urban agriculture. With a growing number of megacities with five million inhabitants and more, supplying food from close to where people are accommodated is becoming ever more urgent, also owing to the long haul involved from the rural markets. For some time now, German development co-operation has been addressing this topic, for urban and peri-urban agriculture offers an efficient use of water and energy, while waste products such as wastewater and compost can be recycled.
Scientific programmes have focused on issues ranging from allotment gardening to skyfarming. At the meeting of experts in Eschborn, Professor Wigbert Riehl of the University of Kassel presented the example of vertical farming to demonstrate how fruit and vegetables could be grown for the urban population on roofs in the megacities of Asia, Africa and Latin America. There was an abundance of roofs, sometimes with extensive surfaces, in these cities, and such large amounts could be produced that in addition to self-supply, marketing was feasible. However, Riehl explained that this did require knowhow, for modern technologies such as fertile substrates and appropriate plant varieties were required. And first of all, Riehl stressed, the modern modes of production in urban agriculture had to be accepted by the urban population and needed political support.
To conclude the discussion, Dr. Stefan Krall of GIZ noted that the Nexus Water-Energy-Food Security was merely one of several approaches that would have to be developed in adapting to climate change. One of the big advantages of Nexus, Krall maintained, was that a reassessment was in progress in the development co-operation institutions, and he hoped that this cross-departmental approach would also be applied among the governments and partner countries of German development co-operation.