Water scarcity, as one of the top three risks to livelihoods, continues to dominate the global development agenda. Research is faced with the task of developing water knowledge and innovation solutions to support policy and decision-making on formulating coherent strategies that drive sustainable socio-economic development. In South Africa, the Water Research Commission (WRC) and its partners have taken the lead in providing transformative solutions for socio-economic development in the face of multiple and interlinked challenges. Although the WRC has championed integrated approaches such as Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM), since 2011, and in line with emerging global trends, the focus has shifted to the more polycentric water–energy–food (WEF) nexus. The WRC has since instituted a WEF Nexus Lighthouse, cross-cutting research, development, and innovation flagship program that cuts across all its Key Strategic Areas (KSAs). Several research projects across the KSAs are linked to the WEF Nexus Lighthouse, following a defined research trajectory to inform resource management, decision-making, and policy. This study details the evolution of the WEF nexus as a polycentric and transformative framework that addresses various societal and environmental challenges in an integrated manner. We highlight the achievements made towards transforming the WEF nexus from being only a conceptual and discourse framework into an analytical decision support tool. Policy decisions that are based on the WEF nexus have the potential to improve livelihoods and enhance sustainable socio-economic development for the achievement of the 2030 Global Agenda on Sustainable Development. The approach addresses complex socio-ecological by providing a strategic evidence base for informing policy- and decision-making.
Liphadzi, S., Mpandeli, S., Mabhaudhi, T., Naidoo, D., & Nhamo, L. (2021). The Evolution of the Water–Energy–Food Nexus as a Transformative Approach for Sustainable Development in South Africa. In The Water–Energy–Food Nexus (pp. 35-67). Springer, Singapore.