Home / What we do

What we do

We provide decision-makers at all levels with the knowledge and frameworks to effectively manage the trade-offs between:

Food

Food and agriculture comprise 70% of human water demand.

Energy

Energy prices and biofuel production are primary determinants of food prices.

Environment

Environmental systems underpin the security of food, energy and water resources.

Water

Water scarcity and poor water quality constrain hydropower and thermal energy generation.

As the world charts a more sustainable future, the crucial interplay among water, food and energy is one of the most formidable challenges we face.

− Ban-Ki Moon, UN Secretary-General, World Water Day 2011

Our work

Food, energy, environment and water are critical systems to both people and landscapes. Too often decisions are made in one domain without consideration of the effects in another. This narrow focus imposes costs and risks on all, but especially on the vulnerable in poor countries.

The FE2W Network works with decision-makers to improve the understanding of systemic risks and how to manage shocks across these systems. Our approach is founded on collaboration and an emphasis on poverty reduction, sustainable livelihoods, and the need to maintain critical ecosystem services. We will engage with the people who make the decision from farmers to policy makers to consumers, and enable actions that result in improved long-term outcomes.

In the first operational phase of the Network’s operations we will focus on six regions: Colorado Basin (United States), Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna Basin (South Asia), Mekong Basin (South-East Asia), Murray-Darling Basin (Australia), Nile Basin (East Africa), and Volta Basin (West Africa).

The three components of our work are:

1. UNDERSTAND RISKS

to the security of food, energy, environment and water resources. The linkages across systems means that a narrowly focused approach to fixing one problem often exacerbates stresses elsewhere. For example, subsidised electricity for poor farmers may drive excessive groundwater pumping that undermines water, food and energy security. By contrast, our holistic approach to food, energy, environment and water informs our understanding of the range of potential costs, benefits and feedback effects associated with different management decisions.

2. ENGAGE DECISION-MAKERS

on developing, adapting, and implementing decision frameworks that consider food, energy, environment and water as integrated systems. We help decision-makers confronted by risks and uncertainty to tackle complex problems in a straightforward way. Our decision frameworks provide a pathway to practical, relevant responses that meet specific goals and heed cross-system risks.

3. ENABLE ACTION

by decision-makers, be it a farmer or a water minister, that results in improved long-term outcomes for people and the natural resources they depend on. Our knowledge and experience allows us to support decision-makers’ understanding of the risks and outcomes across food, energy, environment and water systems. Our approach helps decision-makers balance trade-offs, reduce risks, and accommodate uncertainty. We seek ‘win-win’ solutions and approaches so that local and national level projects can be scalable across different locations and circumstances and generate on-the-ground improvements to people’s lives.

Central to our approach is the primacy given to poverty reduction, sustainable livelihoods and the need to maintain critical ecosystems at multiple spatial and temporal scales.

THE REAL GLOBAL SECURITY CHALLENGE

What do rising rice prices, social instability in the Middle East, and a quest for biofuels have in common? They are all caused by the unintended consequences of policies that do not appreciate the interconnectedness of food, energy, environment and water.

The global food price shock of 2007-08, for example, raised the number of undernourished and those in extreme poverty by more than 100 million people, and much higher wheat prices in 2010-11 might have contributed to the ‘Arab Spring’. The recent food crises were, in part, caused by high energy prices and misguided policies to promote biofuel production to improve energy security, but in fact raised emissions and reduced the land and water available for food production. This shows the importance of linking decisions across food, energy, environment and water systems.

Governance without a better understanding of interconnected links between systems can cause cascading failures, or increase systemic risks. Without understanding systemic risks and lacking governance frameworks to make better decisions there will be increased political and social volatility. Crises will emerge quickly and unexpectedly. This is a clear and present danger and a global challenge.

Our work enables action by those with the influence to affect change. We have come together because we understand the political and human consequences of inaction – the time to act is now.