Nexus Gains: Realizing Multiple Benefits Across Water, Energy, Food, and Ecosystems


Water, energy, food, forests, and biodiversity systems are strongly interconnected and are critical to rural livelihoods and food and nutrition security. These systems are under extreme stress from climate change and other human-induced pressures.

This stress is particularly pronounced in South Asia’s breadbasket basins, where groundwater abstraction, climate change, deforestation, biodiversity loss, and poor policies put 8% of the world’s food production at risk, with potentially devastating impacts for more than 2 billion people. Similarly, glacial retreat, changing hydrological and ecological regimes, unsustainable water withdrawals, and fossil fuel reliance profoundly impact Central Asia’s future. East Africa’s rapidly growing population faces increasing food insecurity due to climate change and low yields, lack of irrigation, and limited energy access.

National and regional institutions fail to account for the integrated nature of water, energy, food, forests, and biodiversity systems, and cross-sectoral feedbacks, including tradeoffs and synergies. Women, girls, and other vulnerable groups face the greatest adverse consequences from this degradation.


This Initiative aims to realize gains across water, energy, food, forests, and biodiversity systems in three selected regions by co-generating a series of outputs via four work packages and a cross-cutting capacity development program.

This will be achieved by:

  • Co-developing and scaling at least six water-energy-food-forest-biodiversity nexus innovations focused on increased resource use efficiency and strengthened ecosystem functions.
  • Developing evidence and approaches for improved water productivity using a systems approach that considers all water users in two focal basins.
  • Energizing food systems equitably and sustainably with at least four innovations in close collaboration with private energy and other water-energy-food-forest-biodiversity actors.
  • Strengthening governance across water, energy, food, forests and biodiversity systems, including at least five social learning, citizen-science, or multi-stakeholder platform mechanisms.
  • Supporting a capacity development program and building on partnerships that will unlock cross-sectoral gains in these interconnected systems and directly support investments.


Proposed 3-year outcomes include:

  1. Actors increase water, energy, and food and nutrition security and environmental sustainability through scaling prioritized innovations in focal regions based on nexus gains data, tools, institutions, and innovations.
  2. Actors in focal basins are enabled to significantly improve water productivity across scales.
  3. Actors use scalable business models to accelerate rural energy access for more sustainable and equitable food systems in at least three target basins.
  4. Policymakers and communities are enabled to develop more inclusive nexus institutions through knowledge products, practical learning tools and guidelines, and science-policy dialogues.
  5. Actors have increased capacity to identify, assess, and act on nexus tradeoffs and synergies and to lead implementation.

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