February 22, 2024, Thursday
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The Food, Energy and Water Nexus

More emphasis on lift irrigation for more food to grow

The Nepal Weekly
June 20, 2023

Food, Energy and Water or Water, Energy and Food are three vital components of socio-economics for any country in the world. These are more important to the developing countries and under developed countries. Thus, it is serious agenda for Nepal as well.

The concept elaborates and analyse the connections of water with energy and food, energy with water and food and food with water and energy.

It is globally realised that these three components are essential for human well-being, poverty reduction and sustainable development. Projections indicate that demand for freshwater, energy and food will increase significantly over the next decades under the pressure of population growth and mobility, economic development, international trade, urbanisation, diversifying diets, cultural and technological changes, and climate change. Agriculture accounts for 70 per cent of total global freshwater withdrawals, making it the largest user of water. Water is used for agricultural production, forestry and fishery, along the entire agri-food supply chain, and it is used to produce or transport energy in different forms. At the same time, the food production and supply chain consumes about 30 per cent of total energy consumed globally. Energy is required to produce, transport and distribute food as well as to extract, pump, lift, collect, transport and treat water. Cities, industry and other users, too, claim increasingly more water, energy and land resources, and at the same time, face problems of environmental degradation and in some cases, resources scarcity.

This situation is expected to be exacerbated in the near future as 60 per cent more food will need to be produced in order to feed the world population in 2050. Global energy consumption is projected to grow by up to 50 per cent by 2035. Total global water withdrawals for irrigation are projected to increase by 10 per cent by 2050. As demand grows, there is increasing competition for resources between water, energy, agriculture, fisheries, livestock, forestry, mining, transport and other sectors with unpredictable impacts for livelihoods and the environment. Large-scale water infrastructure projects, for instance, may have synergetic impacts, producing hydropower and providing water storage for irrigation and urban uses. However, this might happen at the expense of downstream agro-ecological systems and with social implications, such as resettlements. Similarly, growing bioenergy crops in an irrigated agriculture scheme may help improve energy supply and generate employment opportunities, but it may also result in increased competition for land and water resources with impacts on local food security.

In this context, the nexus of Food-Energy-Water has emerged as a useful concept to describe and address the complex and interrelated nature of our global resource systems, on which we depend to achieve different social, economic and environmental goals. In practical terms, it presents a conceptual approach to better understand and systematically analyse the interactions between the natural environment and human activities, and to work towards a more coordinated management and use of natural resources across sectors and scales. This can help us to identify and manage trade-offs and to build synergies through our responses, allowing for more integrated and cost-effective planning, decision-making, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.

Water requires for electricity generated by hydropower plants, after the water used for electricity generation can be used for irrigation and drinking water while irrigation is much important for producing food and maintain soil health as well.

Water to energy is a common practice in Nepal almost all electricity is generated by using water. Therefore, water must be well conserved, saving it from climate change effects is one of the serious issues.

Underlying the Water-Energy-Food Nexus approach of FAO is a holistic vision of sustainability that recognises and tries to strike balance between the different goals, interests and needs of people and the environment.

It explicitly addresses complex interactions and feedback between human and natural systems. The resource base refers to both natural and socio-economic resources, on which we depend to achieve different goals and interests pertaining to water, energy and food. Nexus interactions are about how we use and manage resource systems, describing interdependencies (depending on each other), constraints (imposing conditions or trade-offs) and synergies (mutually reinforcing or having shared benefits).

Interactions take place within the context of globally relevant drivers, such as demographic changes, urbanisation, industrial development, agricultural modernisation, international and regional trade, markets and prices, technological advancements, diversification and changes of diets, and climate change as well as more context-specific drivers, like governance structures and processes, cultural and societal beliefs and behaviours. These drivers often have a strong impact on the resources base, causing environmental degradation and resource scarcity, but they also affect and are affected by different social, economic and environmental goals and interests. The lift irrigation programmes conducted in Nepal is one effective instrument that is successful in providing irrigation to dry farmlands where water flows down in rivers and rivulets. Electricity generated from Solar PV to pump to lift the water to irrigate dry farm lands is much appreciated and the electricity access to pumping systems is also equally result oriented. Such investments should be extended more with view to grow more foods and better livelihood of farmers. Moreover, the private sector of Nepal engaged in supply, installation and after-sales-service for such technology has been well experienced and efficient. (The Nepal Weekly)