Water, energy and food security can be achieved in Southern Africa through joint efforts and integration with other sectors of the economy.
This was the conclusion of a joint ministerial meeting chaired by Ernesto Max Elias Tonela, the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy of Mozambique, which is the current chair of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
Minister Tonela applauded SADC member states for their resilient ways of managing the Covid-19 pandemic while continuing to enhance strategies to safeguard energy and water operations.
He called upon SADC member states to adopt and operationalise coordination mechanisms.
He said joint efforts are needed to achieve a consistent supply of energy and water which will provide sustainable development, guarantee industrialisation, reduce poverty, achieve regional integration, stimulate economic growth and improve the quality of life of the people of the SADC region.
The SADC region has been experiencing economic growth, population growth and improved living standards factors that have put pressure on water, energy and food resources in addition to the impact of climate change.
To address these challenges, the SADC Ministers responsible for Energy and Water approved the Water-Energy-Food (WEF) Nexus Framework, which aims to secure the supply of these resources by strengthening synergies, and reducing trade-offs.
The ministers confirmed that a long-lasting solution to these challenges can only be realised when the related sectors find a truly collaborative arrangement as any strategy that focuses on water, food or energy separately without considering the interconnections, risks serious unintended consequences.
The Nexus approach highlights the interdependencies between achieving water, energy, and food security for human well-being while ensuring ecologically sustainable use of essential resources.
It bridges the traditional divides between each of the sectors and takes a long-term perspective that is relevant to all major international processes aimed at sustainable development, including the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The WEF-Nexus i, therefore, a central pillar of the SADC 2030 Agenda, as an enabler of sustainable development in its three dimensions.
The SADC Executive Secretary Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax commended the decision to adopt the nexus approach, saying, “We are indeed on the right track, and if we all commit to this course, we will definitely reap greater benefits in the near future.”
Dr Tax further stressed the importance of the nexus approach as it greatly contributes towards regional integration, including industrialisation, environmental protection, and ultimately to peace and stability, socio-economic development, and reduction of poverty in the region.
Traditionally, the design of water and energy systems has been done independently or considered simplified interdependencies between the systems.
This approach misses valuable synergies between them and does not consider in detail the sharing and distribution of benefits between sectors, and or among Member States.
Dr Tax said the joint ministerial meeting was conducted after approval by the 40th Summit of SADC Heads of State and Government which prioritised the acceleration of development through industrialisation by implementing priority value chains and energy infrastructure projects.
The theme of the 40th summit was “SADC 40 Years Building Peace and Security, and Promoting Development and Resilience in the Face of Global Challenges”.
In relation to the SADC Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) 2020-30 and the SADC Vision 2050, Dr Tax noted that the major focus area in 2020/2021 remains directed towards implementation of the remaining components of the SADC Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan (RIDMP), which aims to create a conducive environment for the attainment of water and energy security for all.
The water, energy and food security challenges are linked to reduced rainfall that has lowered the water levels in reservoirs, the changing climate and the increasing demand due to the growing population and aspirations for higher living standards.
Predictions by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) indicate a decrease in annual precipitation by as much as 20 percent by 2080 in most parts of the region while the duration of the rainy season will shorten.
About 70 percent of the population in the SADC region depends on rain-fed agriculture for crop production, and large segments of rural population are engaged in subsistence farming, livestock herding and artisanal fishing.
Demand for water, food and energy in the region is expected to rise by 30-50 percent in the next two decades.
Regional energy demand is expected to increase to over 115 000MW by 2030 according to the Southern African Power Pool.
Water withdrawals for irrigation are projected to increase by 10 percent by 2050, while 60 percent more food will be needed to feed the region in 2050. This is expected to increase the demand for energy and water.
As the three sectors are inextricably linked, uncoordinated development and management in one area has the capacity to negatively impact on others.
Food production for example requires water and energy while water extraction and distribution require energy, and energy production requires water.
This water-energy-food security nexus therefore requires Member States to develop innovative and integrated approaches to management of the three sectors to optimise use of resources, balance competing demands and maximise benefits.
The Ministers responsible for energy, and for water from the SADC region met on October 30 through video conferencing hosted by the Republic of Mozambique. — sardc.net.