RECAP: The Energy-Agriculture Nexus

June 24th, 2015

This is a guest post from WRI’s Lily Odarno about the joint Energy Engagement Series Practical Action hosts with WRI each month in Washington, DC. This event is meant to be a discussion that brings together leaders in the energy access  space. This summary is from an event we held in May discussing the Energy-Agriculture nexus. 

Lily Odarno from WRI

Lily Odarno from WRI

Discussions on the role of energy in development are becoming increasingly focused on the nexus between energy and other aspects of development. The energy-agriculture nexus centers on the interlinkages between energy, water and food. Water is a key requirement in energy production. At the same time the production of water is dependent on the availability of sufficient quantities of energy. Food production, processing and storage are all dependent on the availability of water and energy resources. The May installment of the Energy Engagement Series focused on the energy-agriculture nexus. It specifically focused on some of the big questions about the nexus and how the most can be made out of it.

Here are the three key takeaways from the discussions:

  1. There is the need for an approach to addressing nexus issues which integrates the bottom-up with the top-down. Seen exclusively from the top-down, the challenge of maximizing the energy-water-food nexus may be seen as a solely technical one. Such a perspective may translate into purely technical solutions such as making solar water pumps and other technologies available to agricultural communities. Whereas this may be of some benefit in itself, it fails to address underlying political and social inequalities which may impede access to water resources for poor farmers in periods of drought, even though they may be equipped with appropriate technology.


  1. A careful consideration of nexus issues is crucial to designing effective development projects. A development project which focuses exclusively on introducing water pumps for rural agriculture and fails to consider what will be done with the produce from the now more productive agricultural sector could potentially fail in reaching its overall objectives. Here, a focus on the energy-water-nexus will enable provisions for the storage of agricultural produce to be anticipated and planned for early in the development initiative.


  1. We also discussed the need for a greater focus on promoting decentralized energy options where they can plan a role in filling the energy gap in the nexus. Participants agreed that in many cases, the focus on centralized large-scale energy options tends to crowd out the potential role decentralized options could play in addressing nexus challenges. There is an obvious need to build an evidence base for the role of decentralized options and garner the support of governments and other development actors for their implementation, where they can play a role. Likewise, a strong focus on community engagement could facilitate the effective adoption of these decentralized options in agricultural communities.

The Energy Engagement Series is a monthly event held in Washington, DC. If you would like to be invited to future events, please click here.

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