Hence, nexus solutions often include institutional reform guided by stakeholder collaboration Rodriguez et al. While differing in emphasis, each nexus framework seeks to understand and assess links between natural resource systems. This is carried out to identify entry points for interventions and then to monitor and evaluate their performance Bizikova et al.
Approaches that embrace the nexus concept, whether deliberately or not, have sought to decouple, manage and understand resource interconnections to enhance food security. In the Indian state of Gujarat, for example, food, water and energy have been tightly coupled through the use of electricity for groundwater pumping for irrigation. An almost per cent increase in the use of electrical pumps since the s resulted in a crisis of groundwater depletion and salinisation Shah et al. Although it represents a continuation of systems thinking applied in other areas, broad uptake and implementation of the nexus approach in agricultural, environmental and resource management remain elusive in practice Bizikova et al.
In part, this is because every case is unique and there are difficulties in devising boundaries and selecting the core systems and connections for a pragmatic assessment Stein et al. When operationalising the nexus, some have presumed that interconnections are understandable and predictable and that mapping connections results in rational policy reform Bizikova et al. Neither assumption is necessarily correct. In particular, recognition of spatial and sectoral interdependencies should inform policies, institutions and investments for enhancing water, energy and food security Conway et al.
Arguably, actions on the nexus remain largely within the water sector. Broader application of the nexus approach will require greater involvement from the energy and finance sectors LaBrecque Further, future nexus methodologies will need to adjust to shifting landscapes, such as the increasing penetration of renewable energy technologies, along with the emerging interconnections between unconventional shale gas, groundwater, land and food Hussey et al.
Climate change and the increasing demand for goods and services, due to economic growth, likely will bring greater attention to the interactions involving food, energy and water resources in many countries Conway et al. Folke et al. Both definitions embed the notions of dynamics, response and adaptation. The concept of resilience in food security is most relevant to developing countries, where chronic undernourishment exposes several hundred million people to rapid onset food security threats.
It provides a new perspective on planning for threats Constas et al. It requires identification of the critical variables and actions that maintain the stability of social—ecological systems while not exceeding key thresholds, and supporting the provision of ecosystem goods and services in the presence of systemic threats. Striving for system resilience involves promoting diversity and flexibility, and building the capacity to adapt and change. Threats may be addressed through interventions in production, consumption, distribution and governance of food systems, as well as climate change mitigation and ecosystem management Foresight ; WLE Resilience can be promoted in many ways.
To address the food, land and water challenges in the Volta basin, for example, the Water Land and Ecosystems WLE initiative worked with communities to plant fruit trees and build resilience through livelihood diversity and ecosystem biodiversity. WLE highlighted opportunities to strengthen governance mechanisms to improve land tenure, using property rights to provide incentives to improve riparian land management and build resilience to sedimentation. For instance, food production resilience may erode the resilience of water systems; national or general resilience may be achieved at the expense of local or specified resilience.
Troell et al. Growth of the aquaculture sector may achieve enhanced resilience of the global food system through food diversification and efficient protein generation Torrissen et al. More importantly, to make a difference to outcomes, resilience thinking must move beyond evaluation to include actions that promote resilience in practice Grigg et al. Contemporary approaches have tried to amalgamate resilience thinking with components of the SI or nexus discourses. Stringer et al. A key response to the global challenges of food, energy, environment and water is to link the diagnosis of risks and their potential consequences to decisions that can control and mitigate those risks.
Our examples highlight local complexity and, thus, the need for contextually appropriate solutions. The process of identifying and selecting decision options should draw upon and, where relevant, integrate across the three key discourses of SI, the nexus and resilience thinking, among other approaches. SI emphasises resource use and efficient food production. All three discourses are valuable when determining how to sustainably feed the world in the coming decades—the challenge of global food insecurity—but by themselves, they are insufficient.
The ROAD is an adaptive process that assesses risks and possible responses in food, soil, energy and water systems. In sum, ROAD is designed to support individuals, households, businesses and governments to assess risks and integrate them into their decisions. Researchers and practitioners across different disciplines have used a range of definitions for concepts related to risk and uncertainty. ROAD is superficially linear or chronological in the sense that each component of the assessment with steps within each builds on previous components.
Nevertheless, it may be necessary to revisit and revise previous components, or steps within components, before moving forward. Thus, ROAD is also an iterative and adaptive process. The ROAD process can be conducted for forward planning to manage potential risks or to respond to risks once they have been triggered. Hence, ROAD is both a strategic and adaptive management tool that can be updated as uncertainties are better understood, causal pathways are better defined through experience and, importantly, as the underlying causal relationships change. Multiple concepts and approaches are built into the ROAD process.
SI is incorporated through the identification of baselines and thresholds for food, energy, environment and water systems in Component 1, their comparison against projected consequences in Component 4 and outcomes in Component 5. The nexus concept is primarily incorporated via the definition of the causal pathways that link events and options across food, energy, environment and water, and also the requirement to consider consequences across these four linked systems.
Resilience thinking is integrated in ROAD with the focus on linked systems, triggers and the capacity to inform actions that prepare for potential risks. Sustainable development is included through the use of sustainability thresholds and, in particular, the requirement to define and consider the needs of all relevant stakeholders, including the poor and vulnerable.
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Groups may include individuals with similar objectives, such as a team within an organisation, or a ROAD process could be conducted as a joint exercise involving participants with different objectives, such as officials from energy and water ministries. The time and effort to apply the ROAD process will depend on the temporal and geographical scale of the decisions at hand, as well as the resources available.
For a farmer, it may be a simple, rapid process with a limited information base, but one that would provide a more systematic way to assess and mitigate risks. A key contribution of ROAD is the causal risk pathways that provide a means to evaluate causes and effects while being explicit about the risks and the outcomes of decisions.
At the start of the causal pathway, the likelihood of the trigger needs to be estimated. This likelihood could be quantitative—in which case, it would be a probability or a probability interval—and based on past data or expert assessment, or based on a qualitative scale of relative likelihood or certainty. This model is a hypothetical representation from the perspective of a farmer in the Murray—Darling Basin in Australia.
In this causal pathway, there is one primary trigger drought and two secondary triggers reduced river flows and diminished precipitation. The farmer's control in response to the risk is to choose the preferred approaches about how much water should be used in crop production. Buying water may also have additional benefits for river ecosystems due to return flows.
On the other hand, a farmer may choose to install a groundwater pump, grow different crops or install drip irrigation. Each of the farmer's actions has a likelihood of raising or reducing income and maintaining or degrading river ecosystems.
While the control decisions determine the potential consequences against objectives, the farmer may also have mitigant actions available. For instance, if the farmer has a reduced income, he or she has the option to obtain a new, or increase the existing, loan at a bank so as to smooth household consumption. Our example is highly stylised, and in reality, a much broader range of controls and mitigants would be available to a farmer responding to a larger set of triggers and risks. For example, companion modelling Barreteau et al.
Originally developed in fisheries management, management strategy evaluation Bunnefeld et al. None of these tools and methods is, however, necessary to use ROAD. Ultimately, what tools are used to conduct the ROAD process depends on the decision problem at hand and the resources available. The ROAD process is not unique in considering interactions between the food, energy, environment, water sectors and the actions of stakeholders.
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The drivers, pressures, state, impact and response framework Kristenses , water—energy—food framework Bizikova et al. As with all decision processes, its practical contribution ultimately depends on how it is applied, and in what circumstances. The extent to which ROAD achieves these aspirational goals can only be determined from its application in multiple locations, and for different decision processes.
Several research questions are pertinent. Under what conditions and circumstances is the ROAD process applicable? For instance, can it be adapted so as to be appropriate for an individual farmer? Further, is the ROAD process applicable in locations where there are limited human and financial capacities? Or is it better suited in places where sophisticated modelling and extensive information resources are available?
The world is at a crossroads. Past agricultural intensification succeeded at increasing food production faster than the rate of population growth and lifted hundreds of millions of households from poverty and food insecurity. To feed a global population of more than 9 billion in and beyond, the world must sustainably intensify its agriculture.
More people will live in cities, and many of them will have higher incomes and desire a more diversified diet.
Framing the food security challenge against global megatrends
Yet many will remain poor, food insecure and live in rural areas. The food, energy and water needs of both rural and urban dwellers must be met in ways that reduce poverty and, critically, sustain the natural resources and environment on which agriculture depends.
The task ahead is substantial, but not insurmountable. We contend it requires a paradigm shift in how food is produced and resources are used. The ROAD is a response to this challenge. ROAD is an adaptive and flexible process intended to generate improved responses to risks, and especially systemic risks.
The testing and application of ROAD, and in specific landscapes, are required if its potential is to be fully realised. We consider this to be a global priority.