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Research on the Water-Energy-Food nexus in South Africa

02 June 2020

The Groningen Centre of Energy Law and Sustainability (GCELS) of the Faculty of Law, is part of a consortium that has been awarded a 3-year research grant in the first call for proposals of the Cooperation South Africa-The Netherlands research programme. The project is funded by NWO and the South African National Research Foundation (NRF) and involves research on the Water-Energy-Food (WEF) nexus in South Africa. The consortium consists of two Dutch universities (the Utrecht University and the University of Groningen), two South African universities (the North-West University and the University of Fort Hare) and the World Wide Fund for Nature in South Africa (SA).

The research project ’Water-Energy-Food communities in South Africa: multi-actor nexus governance for social justice?’ considers the decision making processes relating to the increasing demands for and production of energy, water and food and the consequences for social justice. Inspired by recently adopted EU legislation for energy communities, the project introduces the concept of WEF communities. GCELS will appoint a post-doctoral researcher to investigate the legal framework governing energy communities and their consequences for social justice at EU level and in some EU member states and participate in a comparative analysis of applicable EU and SA legislation in order to gain insight in the legal challenges and opportunities for WEF communities. Prof. dr. Martha Roggenkamp and dr. Romain Mauger are participating in the project on behalf of GCELS.

Water-Energy-FOOD (WEF) nexus
The Water-Energy-Food (WEF) nexus is gaining scholarly and policy attention. Despite growing evidence on which type of nexus governance works, little is known about the consequences of such governance for social justice. Implementing the nexus requires decision-making about trade-offs between the use and production of water, energy and food, which are particularly acute at household and community levels. This raises justice questions of who can benefit from the nexus, who makes the decisions and at what levels. In South Africa, where access to water, energy and food are strongly influenced by a history of Apartheid and inequality, there is a need to study the challenges and opportunities of a socially just nexus implementation from the bottom up. This research introduces the concept of WEF communities, inspired by EU legislation for energy communities to produce their own renewable electricity. We study how to apply this concept to communities in South Africa and whether it could be expanded to the production and supply of water and food, and its consequences for social justice. The project consists of an (comparative) analysis of the legal frameworks in the EU and South Africa, and assesses in particular WEF interlinkages and decision-making processes in two communities in the Eastern Cape and Northern Cape. Outreach happens through publications, workshops, a website, a symposium and local WEF nexus festivals.

More information
Website NWO
Prof. Martha Roggenkamp
Dr. Romain Mauger

This article was published by the Faculty of Law.

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