Blog Fostering Diverse Water-Energy-Food Nexus Networks

Fostering Diverse Water-Energy-Food Nexus Networks - Alliance Bioversity International and CIAT

A new water-energy-food (WEF) nexus community of practice and podcast spread the word about synergistic resource management. 

Water, energy, and food are intimately linked and interdependent. Together, these resources have a major impact on the environment and human well-being. For sustainable and equitable development, it is essential to balance people’s need for food security with our limited supply of freshwater resources while also protecting ecosystems.  

Managing this 'WEF nexus'’ entails the involvement of many stakeholders from across these traditionally siloed sectors. Reaching this balance requires considerable coordination of actors working across sectors and scales to manage these resources in an integrated way to achieve multiple goals. This is the role of WEF nexus approaches: to address complex trade-offs and synergies to multiply gains across WEF sectors. 

A new podcast sheds light on WEF approaches 

Bringing the critical concepts behind the WEF nexus approach to a broader audience, this podcast – co-hosted by Anne Chisa and Rewa Assi, two ​​​​early-career women researchers from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa and the International Water Resources Association ECR Chapter, respectively – will feature interviews with leading WEF nexus researchers to explain nexus concepts through moderated conversations for researchers, government actors, practitioners, and other interested stakeholders. 

The podcast – titled 'Unveiling Synergies’ – will start with 21 episodes covering core nexus issues such as WEF and climate change, WEF and planetary health, and WEF and gender. The first episode, released on the 29th of April 2024, features an introductory conversation between Sara Masia from IHE-Delft and Tafadzwa Mabhaudhi from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.  

Fostering Diverse Water-Energy-Food Nexus Networks - Alliance Bioversity International - CIAT - Image 1

UNFCCC Focal Persons from SADC Member States who participated in the Nexus Advanced School. Photo Credit: Albain Tchangou (GWPSA)

Seeding a community of practice

The idea for the podcast came about through a new ‘Global WEF Nexus Community of Practice’ (CoP), which brings together individuals and organizations to discuss and plan impactful interventions. The CoP aims to share knowledge, data, and tools, and to support capacity development around the WEF nexus. The community holds open dialogues to exchange diverse ideas and perspectives, provides a nurturing environment for asking questions and offering support, and hosts activities such as online and in-person trainings, science-policy dialogues and symposia. 

The fast-growing CoP currently includes a range of partners including the CGIAR Initiative on NEXUS Gains, IHE-Delft, the Water Research Commission of South Africa, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Penn State University and UNU-INWEH. According to Mabhaudhi, Lead Convener of the CoP “We continue to engage more partners to be inclusive and work in collaboration. Our whole model is based on the idea that we can do more if we combine our strengths.”  

The development of the CoP comes in response to requests from WEF researchers and practitioners around the world to stay in touch, learn more about the fast-developing nexus approach, and work toward nexus implementation cooperatively and collaboratively. The CoP was created to support ‘Social learning in situations of complexity’, which requires bringing together diverse actors who have knowledge and experience related to different parts of the WEF systems, at different levels, to determine a shared direction for action. In this space for cross-sectoral and multi-stakeholder interactions, silos are broken down for cross-pollination of ideas and plans. 

From theory to practice 

The WEF Nexus CoP and podcast are the most recent additions to a series of efforts to strengthen the role of nexus thinking in research and practice related to the management of water, agriculture, energy, and in its latest conceptualization, the environment (adding a last ‘E’ to the WEFE nexus). The journey began with a WEF Nexus Regional Workshop in March 2020 in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, soon before the COVID-19 outbreak. The workshop aimed to review progress on nexus research since 2016, consolidate efforts, and identify remaining gaps. One of the key gaps identified was capacity development to enable researchers themselves to break out of their silos. 

An online WEF Nexus Masterclass and in-person Advanced School were developed to address these capacity needs. In the first two editions of these trainings in 2021 and 2022, participants continuously highlighted the need for a CoP to facilitate continued post-event discussions and engagement. As a result of this demand and of the motivated participation of nexus activity partners, the Global WEF Nexus Community of Practice was collaboratively developed and officially launched at the WaterNet Symposium in Zanzibar in October 2023. 

Fostering Diverse Water-Energy-Food Nexus Networks - Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT

WEF Nexus Advanced School class of 2023. Photo Credit: Albain Tchangou (GWPSA).

Future developments 

The CoP is user-driven, responding to the knowledge needs of its members. This begins with the podcast's launch and focus on under-explored nexus topics specified by CoP members. Later this year, a regional workshop with focal points from the 16 UNFCCC member states from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) will aim to integrate nexus approaches into national climate targets and action plans. This will be followed by a Regional WEF Nexus Summit. The CoP also plans to convene a Food Systems Summer School, Writing Workshops, and Science Policy Dialogues, among other activities. 

Moving forward, the CoP will continue to adapt to the knowledge and capacity needs of its members. As a dynamic convening space where diverse stakeholders can communicate equally, the CoP serves as a microcosm of the ideal nexus approach. Furthermore, as the community grows in membership and geography, the CoP’s conveners aim to establish regional chapters that can be more context-specific with more local engagement with its ultimate goal of offering local solutions to global challenges. 

The ’Unveiling Synergies’ podcast series can be found on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and most podcast streaming platforms. To visit the webpage and/or join the Global WEF Nexus Community of Practice, please visit the CoP LinkedIn page at The podcast series and CoP are supported by partners listed in the article, including the CGIAR Initiative on NEXUS Gains, the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT and the International Water Management Institute


Header Image: Building a community of WEFE nexus professionals at the CGIAR Initiative on NEXUS Gains multi-stakeholder workshop (Nepal, 2022). Credit: Onion Films Nepal Pvt. Ltd.