The response to increasing strains on water resources from population growth, globalization, economic growth, urbanization, inequalities of and conflicts over shared transboundary resources, has led to an analysis of the Food-Energy-Water (FEW) Nexus and its role in development approaches for communities. The FEW Nexus concept developed because these life-sustaining sources, food, energy, and water, are inextricably linked and constitute essential human rights. Using this as a framework, a more systematic analysis of interactions between human activities and their environment can be determined, with the purpose of working towards coordinated management on local, national and international levels. Addressing the FEW Nexus in an integrated approach is crucial in conflict zones with shared environmental resources. In arid zones especially, access and management of FEW resources can impact community development.
The FEW Nexus analyzes the relationship that these resources have with the economic, social, and political health of communities. In specific regions of the Middle East, the FEW Nexus is used as a conflict mitigation strategy in respect to transboundary environmental management and resource availability. The FEW issues faced by Israel and Palestine represent a unique opportunity to develop community-based methods, strategies, technologies, and innovative resource management models to increase community resilience and ensure the sustainability of FEW systems and the agricultural productivity in the region. Lessons learned in the Middle East can also be used in addressing challenges in other arid regions of the world.
The Solutions for Off-grid Food, Energy, Water (SOFEW) project, funded by USAID, imparted by the Center for Transboundary Water Management at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies in Israel, is implemented in the West Bank/Gaza Strip, addressing the need for conflict mitigation relating to transboundary environmental management. The project implements on-site, off-grid solutions for communities lacking access to water, wastewater and energy infrastructure. SOFEW aims to build relationships and trust among these communities surrounding collaborative approaches to FEW resource management, reducing environmental tension and conflict, in conditions where resources are transboundary and shared by communities across political borders.
The SOFEW program utilizes a step wise approach where a toolkit of appropriate FEW technologies will be assessed for each site and context. These technologies include greywater treatment and reuse; renewable energy, hydroponics micro-systems, and more. Including the community in the design process, a gradual, incremental approach will be taken to the installation of the components. After the installation, the impact on the community and environment will be assessed and only then additional interventions will be co-defined with the community. This gradual approach is innovative in its appreciation of the need to maintain open dialogue, establishing long-lasting relationships built on trust and integrity amongst all who are responsible for the sustainable development of the region’s fragile food, water, and energy resources.
This focus highlights the process of capacity building communities to manage FEW resources sustainably. It requires education and training of all stakeholders involved in resource management. Co-evolving practices are needed to develop synergy among stakeholders, including the political dimension of conflict mitigation through co-management and integration of FEW resources.