Governing the food-water-energy nexus in cities

· November 17, 2021


Urban resource systems are under stress due to climate change and growing populations. Many urban and environmental experts agree that conventional ‘siloed’ approaches often miss opportunities to manage these resources more efficiently and reduce environmental and social impacts. The food-water-energy nexus is a powerful concept for showing the interdependencies between systems.

Given rapid urbanization and the concentration of people and industry in cities, it is clear that cities play an important role in managing resources and regenerating nature. However, they are often unable to integrate different mandates or work across sectors.

This course provides insights and reflections on how to think about food, water, energy and nature holistically, and showcases several governance approaches by city officials around the world, particularly in the global South.

Welcome to the ‘Governing the food-water-energy nexus in cities’ course.

We are so excited to guide you on this learning journey!

What you will learn in this course:

  • You will grow in your understanding of food, water, energy and natural systems, and see their interlinkages.
  • You will gain several perspectives on how to enable integrated approaches in local governments and across sectors.
  • You will be equipped with a policy approach for proposing and implementing a nexus project in your city.
  • You will reflect on how these resources and concepts manifest in your city.

The best thing about this course is that all of the concepts are grounded with real examples shared by city officials and urban practitioners from across the world. We also take a global South perspective, presenting approaches that are not always represented.

Nexus is a complex concept, and there are very few examples of a ‘perfect’ case of nexus. We will not be presenting ‘best practices’ here. Instead, we will be sharing how different cities have attempted to create nexus, and what their challenges and findings have been.

This course is organized into three modules which explore what a nexus is and why it is needed, how cities have enabled better nexus integration, and how you can implement nexus in your city!

What to expect

Module 1 will provide an overview of the concept of urban nexus before delving into the different components, offering frameworks for thinking about these components in holistic ways, and showing how they interact together.

Lesson 1 will give you an overview of the course and introduces why urban nexus is an important concept for improving sustainability in cities.

Lesson 2 will explain different types of ecosystem services and demonstrate how nature can support cities, with lessons from São José dos Campos, Brazil.

Lesson 3 will explore ways to understand and improve urban food systems, with lessons from Antananarivo, Madagascar

Lesson 4 will present approaches to understanding and improving urban water cycles, with lessons from Lilongwe, Malawi and Nagpur, India.

Lesson 5 will reflect on how energy transitions are linked to nexus, with lessons from Kisumu, Kenya.

Lesson 6 will draw connections between food, water and energy resource systems and show how green and blue infrastructures can improve outcomes for each of these resource sectors.

Module 2 will reflect on four key enablers of nexus implementation in cities: systems thinking and approaches, sustainable innovation practices, financing for integration, and governance for nexus.

Lesson 7 will explain key features of systems thinking and present a set of tools for applying systems thinking, with particular reference to urban sustainability, with lessons from Johannesburg, South Africa.

Lesson 8 will present different types of innovation and share an approach to sustainable innovation, with a reflection from Cape Town, South Africa.

Lesson 9 will demonstrate the importance of multilevel, cross-departmental and multi-sector governance in achieving nexus goals, and share diverse nexus and nature approaches from Taipei in Taiwan, Sao Paulo in Brazil, Dodoma in Tanzania, and Gantok in India.

Lesson 10 will present key tools and sources of finance that can be used to support nexus projects.

Module 3 will present one lesson (Lesson 11) that offers a policy approach for using green and blue infrastructure for improving the food-water-energy nexus in cities, through the following steps:

  • Getting started
  • Visioning
  • Planning
  • Implementation
  • Monitoring and evaluating

This course is financially supported by Future Earth under PEGASuS: Program for Early-stage Grants Advancing Sustainability Science, made possible with generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.


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Course Includes

  • 12 Lessons
  • 38 Topics
  • 5 Quizzes