Applying the Nexogenesis Water-Energy-Food-Ecosystem Nexus governance approach: update from the three field visits.

Water, energy, food, and ecosystems (the WEFE nexus) are interconnected and have limited resources. Lack of consideration of these interconnections and constraints in policy could hamper economic development and resource security.

NEXOGENESIS is a 4-year European H2020 project with 20 partners from Europe and South Africa. It aims at developing an artificial intelligence-based tool and a nexus governance approach to support stakeholders in the co-creation and implementation of WEFE-integrated policies in 5 case studies. The NEXOGENESIS tool will assess each case study’s policy impacts on the WEFE nexus. The nexus governance approach will use the outputs of such policy impact assessment and that of a governance and policy coherence assessment to facilitate stakeholder dialogue. The ultimate goal is for stakeholders in each case study region to identify an agreed-upon set of WEFE-integrated policies and possibly secure commitment to implementation through a stakeholder agreement.

The NEXOGENESIS project is well underway in its second year of implementation. KWR experts and project partners from Helmholtz-Zentrum für Umweltforschung and the University of Tours developed a stakeholder co-creation approach for WEFE nexus governance. The approach will be applied in the five project case studies: Lielupe river basin (Latvia-Lithuania), Nestos-Mesta River basin (Greece-Bulgaria), Adige River basin (Italy) Jiu River basin (Romania), and Inkomati river basin (South-Africa).

The first step of the stakeholder co-creation approach for WEFE nexus governance is a governance assessment. The governance assessment aims to understand the degree to which the current governance system is WEFE Nexus-oriented and to identify drivers and barriers for a shift towards more Nexus-oriented governance. To understand the local governance situation, the interdisciplinary governance team of NEXOGENESIS with experts from KWR (Stefania Munaretto and Caro Mooren), the University of Tours and Helmholtz-Zentrum für Umweltforschung conducted intensive interviews with local stakeholders between June and October 2022.

Lielupe river basin

Under the coordination of the local partner BEF Latvia, the first round of interviews was conducted with national, regional and local stakeholders in Latvia, and local stakeholders from Lithuania discussing the main WEFE Nexus issues in the Lielupe river basin. In September, the second round of interviews was conducted with the national authorities in Lithuania. The interviews sparked interest at the local level to explore transboundary collaboration on local river basin issues. As a result, in September, the governance team (including Stefania Munaretto and Caro Mooren from KWR) organized a transboundary workshop in Bauska municipality, where local stakeholders from Latvia and Lithuania discussed potential actions to improve the river’s water quality jointly. Several options emerged from the discussion, including coordinated river cleanup activities, a joint Lielupe river festival to be organized at the border between the two countries, and more frequent knowledge exchange. The governance assessment team participated to the workshop.

Nestos-Mesta River basin

In Early July, the NEXOGENESIS governance team travelled to Greece and Bulgaria to explore the WEFE nexus issues in the Mesta-Nestos basin with assistance from Nestos Municipality in Greece and Gotse Delchev municipality in Bulgaria. Through interviews with the local and regional stakeholders, the governance assessment team gained insights into the main nexus issues such as water quality, floods and loss of biodiversity and different perspectives in the river basin on how to address these issues. The assessment led to a second stakeholders’ workshop on managing the river basin’s resources.

Adige river basin

In early October, the governance team travelled to the Adige River basin in Italy and combined the interviews with a stakeholders workshop. The workshop was co-organized by the Italian project partners and the autonomous province of Trento authorities. The vice president of the province, also a councillor of the environment, opened the event. The NEXOGENESIS workshop came at the right time in the Adige River basin, which was heavily impacted by the summer drought. The drought sparked the discussion on managing water resources across the river basin from the mountains to the sea. The main question was ‘How to secure water supply to all uses across the entire basin during droughts’ with diverging perspectives across upstream and downstream stakeholders on the respective responsibilities.

Partners of Helmholtz-Zentrum für Umweltforschung and the University of Tours will conduct the other two field visits in the Jiu and Inkomati river basin. Once all the data is collected and analyzed, the governance team will provide recommendations on the barriers and drivers towards WEFE governance. These recommendations will provide the basis 1) to identify policies to be assessed in the NEXOGENESIS, 2) to support the facilitated stakeholders’ dialogue to identify an agreed upon set WEFE integrated policies and 3) possibly secure commitment to implementation via a stakeholder agreement.