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Lund Media / Maike Becker

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Namibia's Water-Energy-Food Nexus

by Dr. Dr. Detlof von Oertzen, Dr. Dr. Martin Schneider, Mr. Piet Heyns

National Development in Uncertain Times

In our publication “Namibia's Water-Energy-Food Nexus”, we present Namibia's water, energy and food sectors and their interrelationships and analyse how the country's development prospects can be improved by strengthening the interactions between and among the Nexus pillars.

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Our survival on planet Earth depends most fundamentally on the availability of water, energy, and food. If these necessities are met, we have the luxury of focusing on the many other aspects of importance to us. However, if these prerequisites are constrained or their supply is threatened, the building blocks of the very foundation of modern civilisation are at risk.

Numerous scenarios could lead to interruptions of our water, energy, and food supplies. The spectres of potential risk and constant change include severe drought, national and international conflicts, a breakdown of essential supply routes, interruptions due to civil unrest, and health pandemics. In a highly interconnected world, disruptions of critical supply chains in one country may cause shortages on the other side of the globe (UNESCO, 2021).

The supplies of water, energy, and food are highly interrelated. Energy is essential for extracting, treating, distributing, and supplying water, processing wastewater, and food production. Water is essential to produce food, and, to some extent, energy. Only if water and energy are available, can food be grown. Producing adequate and affordable food, therefore, depends on the availability, adequacy and affordability of both water and energy.

The interrelation between water, energy and food is known as the water– energy–food nexus. The individual nexus elements are connected and mutually dependent. This mutual dependency implies that it is important to focus on the nexus holistically, rather than on its individual pillars. The choices made in one sector often affect other nexus elements as well.

In a world of more than 8 billion people, the demand for water, energy, and food is massive, and rapidly expanding. Demand is fuelled by population growth, improving living conditions, and our insatiable appetites. Water, energy, and food supplies are directly affected by global trends, while they are constrained by planetary realities, boundaries, and tipping points.

The Earth’s ecosystems have a finite ability to produce food, potable water is finite, too, and energy sources are often unevenly distributed. In addition, a changing climate introduces new stresses and limitations on resources, including on the availability and accessibility of the nexus elements. Meeting the ever-growing demand for water, energy, and food, without overexploiting our planet’s finite resources, is a global challenge. The adequacy of how we manage water, energy, and food determines whether the security of supplies is achieved.

Namibia faces a multitude of development challenges. Primary among them are water, energy, and food. This text therefore introduces Namibia’s water, energy, and food sectors and their interrelationships, while exploring how the country’s development prospects can be enhanced by strengthening the interactions between and among the nexus pillars.


You can download the entire publication as a pdf file.

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