Two projects with South Africa on water-energy-food nexus

15 May 2020

The South African National Research Foundation (NRF) and NWO granted two projects in the first call for proposals of the Cooperation South Africa-The Netherlands research programme. The projects target solutions that balance trade-offs and amplify synergies between the food, water, and energy sectors while simultaneously preserving the environment.


The Cooperation South Africa-The Netherlands research programme aims to further stimulate joint, impact-oriented research between Dutch and South African researchers. The objective of the cooperation s to fund projects that integrate application-oriented solutions across the Water-Energy-Food nexus, develop practical innovations, and support decision and policymakers towards sustainable planning and practices, strategies and policies. The newly granted projects under the first call for proposals also focus on the WEF nexus within major societal challenges.

Granted projects

  • Nexusing Water, Energy and Food to Increase Resilience in the Cape Town Metropolitan Region
    Principal investigators: Prof. J.M. Monstadt & Prof. M.S. Swilling
    This research is concerned with improving the capacity of urban residents, the economy and public authorities to prepare for, cope with, and learn from, the resource crises affecting Cape Town. An ongoing water crisis has led to citywide water-rationing, the city has witnessed several power blackouts due to an energy crisis, and food insecurity is endemic in low-income areas. These challenges are increasingly complex and require better coordination among multiple stakeholders from the energy, water and food sectors. Applying a ‘Water-energy-food nexus approach’, this project explores how such coordination could be organized to support Cape Town’s resilience strategy.
  • Water-Energy-Food communities in South Africa: multi-actor nexus governance for social justice?
    Principal investigators: Dr M.J. Vijge & Prof. W. du Plessis
    A popular approach to manage increasing demands for and production of energy, water and food is the Water-Energy- Food (WEF) nexus. Because nexus implementation requires decision-making about competing resource claims with unavoidable winners and losers, we study the consequences for social justice, focusing on the poor and women in South Africa. Inspired by recently adopted EU legislation for energy communities, we introduce the concept of WEF communities. We analyse how similar communities in South Africa could be legally recognised and expanded to include water use and food production, and with what consequences for social justice.

About the Merian Fund

In 2019, the Cooperation South Africa-The Netherlands programme was launched. This programme falls under the Merian Fund at NWO. The Merian Fund is a fund for international cooperation with important (emerging) science countries. The common thread within the Merian Fund is international research to promote the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals worldwide.

The Merian Fund cooperates with seven partners in five countries: FAPESP (Brazil), NSFC and CAS (China), DST and DBT (India), RISTEKBRIN ( Indonesia) and NRF (South Africa). WOTRO Science for Global Development is responsible for the implementation of the calls under the Merian Fund.

Source: NWO