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Research Report

Addressing the Food, Water, and Energy Nexus: Transatlantic Perspectives and Africa’s Great Chance

Peter Engelke
Copyright Date: Dec. 1, 2014
Published by: Atlantic Council
Pages: 40
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. iii-iii)
    Frederick Kempe

    The smart and productive use of the most precious of natural resources—food, water, and energy—has become one of the great challenges of our times. For too long, we have taken for granted their availability. Outside of the occasional shock to the smooth global flow of oil, it appeared that food, water, and energy would be available all the time, in the right quantity, and indefinitely into the future. Events have undermined this confidence, as when severe drought in one part of the world has caused food prices in another to spike dramatically. Just as critically, we have become...

  2. (pp. 1-2)

    This report explores how the relationships between food, water, and energy resources shape our world and its future. Called the food-water-energy “nexus,” these resources and their interdependencies represent the most fundamentally important systems that support human endeavors on Earth. Understanding this nexus and managing it effectively is a critical challenge for policymakers and thought leaders in the transatlantic arena. The stakes cannot be higher. Continuing to treat food, water, and energy systems as separate phenomena is an approach almost certain to make our world a less prosperous, less resilient, and less secure place than it otherwise might become. Conversely, successfully...

  3. (pp. 3-5)

    The food, water, and energy nexus is an increasingly important concern for the regions surrounding the Atlantic Ocean. While the great challenges of the last century were largely confined to ideological and geopolitical competition, today’s policymakers must grapple with nontraditional security challenges that necessitate multilateral solutions. Food, water, and energy security are three nontraditional security challenges that have taken on much greater importance in recent years. Of these, food is the most visible, especially since the 2008 global food price spike that shook markets and drove political unrest around the world. High-level political leadership has helped reframe food as a...

  4. (pp. 6-16)

    While the nexus affects all the world’s regions, Africa’s situation is unique. On the one hand, the continent has enormous natural bounty—including generous land, water, and energy endowments. Yet on the other hand, many Africans suffer from food, water, and energy insecurity, meaning they do not have reliable access to these goods in sufficient quantities to meet their needs.

    Both conditions are ripe for change. Rising demand for food, water, and energy will almost certainly mean that African production of all three goods will rise. This rising demand is an African story as well as a global one. Africa...

  5. (pp. 17-25)

    We identify five core principles to guide the planning, production, regulation, and use of the food, water, and energy nexus, and for the ecosystems that sustain the nexus.

    An underlying ecological principle is that every resource—including the core resources of food, water, and energy—requires other resources in order to be produced, processed, shipped, consumed, and disposed. Failing to engage in integrated food-water-energy planning and management therefore increases the odds that a country and its citizens will suffer negative consequences from ignoring these linkages. Consequences include economic inefficiencies, greater exposure to external resource shocks, and the possibility that scarcities...

  6. (pp. 26-27)

    In 2011, as part of the sixth edition of its Global Risks report series, the World Economic Forum asserted that food, water, and energy insecurity had become “chronic impediments to economic growth and social stability,” and an emerging form of global risk.84 The report defined negative impacts that might arise from this risk, ranging from stalled economic development to political unrest, loss of livelihoods, damaged ecosystems, increased disaster relief, more hunger and poverty, rising commodity prices, and more volatility on global markets. Indeed, food, water, and energy insecurity raises the odds that these negative conditions will arise, therefore the risk...