IFWEN Updates: Implementing IFWEN – What are our cities doing?
September 9, 2021

Local governments across the world continue to struggle with the implementation of integrated projects and initiatives across multiple departments and sectors. Siloed working approaches remain a hindrance to coordinated development within city departments as well as with non-government stakeholders, including communities and the private sector. While solutions and tools have been developed by many institutions, cities continue to search for precedents to learn from. The IFWEN project aimed to develop tools which cities could use to support their implementation journeys, and tackle systemic limitations to working inter- and intra-governmentally across food, water, energy, waste and nature systems.

As part of the project, case studies have been produced in 9 cities across the world. Each city had a story to tell about food, water, energy in relation to nature in their jurisdiction:

  • Antananarivo demonstrated a unique form of governance in which the local government takes on the role of convening committed private and civil organisations working on food security, water and sanitation, waste management and energy provision. Of note is the work to support peri-urban smallholder and co-op farmers with agro-ecological practices that would improve soil quality, reduce ecological impact and produce high-quality produce. The programme also connected these producers with ‘collectors’ in trust-relationships who would take the high-quality produce to consumers who would pay premiums for organic or low-impact foods. In this way, farmers were equipped with better market knowledge and more leverage over price.
  • Dodoma benefitted from an externally funded, holistic project aimed at improving livelihoods in a whole peri-urban village, to respond to impending impacts of climate change. Innovations included installation of rainwater collectors and underground water storage, solar powered lighting and water pumps, livestock resilient to hot and dry conditions, weather monitoring equipment and an array of skills training for leather working, bee keeping and agro-ecological farming techniques. These innovations demonstrated increased yields of produce and increased incomes for residents across the village.
  • Florianopolis’ case showed how food security can be achieved by empowering communities with tools for self-sufficiency, as well as how citizen power can be achieved through participatory processes. The city established the Municipal Urban Agriculture Program as a municipal law. Through this initiative, this case highlights how the city ensured long-term support of the project.
  • Gangtok responded to a key challenge that all cities face when it comes to engaging with stakeholders. Their case study highlights lessons for multi stakeholder engagement that puts communities at the forefront of development and decision-making. In this case, political support was paramount in steering social support for project implementation, which was further supported by private sector actors who offered technical and financial support.
  • Johannesburg applies systems thinking to support stronger environmental education. The School Greening Project responded to the needs of vulnerable communities and implemented biogas digesters, solar electricity, food gardens, recycling systems and rainwater harvesters in 40 schools across the city. These technologies save the school money, supplement school meals and serve as powerful teaching tools.
  • In Lilongwe, the entry point was about cleaning wastes out of the Lilongwe River. As part of this, photovoice processes were used with residents to explore the value of the river and the extent of the challenge. A composting project was developed to capture food waste before it could enter the river and improve incomes for women in the area.
  • From Nagpur, the process of improving water quality is showcased and demonstrates how the government can align national programmes, policy, and private sector relationships. Key policies have been drafted to encourage wastewater reuse in India. The case shows how recycling waste water offers the city an additional water source through recycling. The case also tackles the city’s need for water to run its thermal power plants by meeting the demand through recycled water as opposed to fresh water, which is limited in supply.
  • Sao Jose dos Campos inspires cities to take and develop legislative action at the municipal level, with Brazil’s first ever environmental protection area. The Paraiba do Sol is a natural area surrounded by the built city, and is a valuable contributor to water treatment and infiltration, to growing food and for sinking carbon.
  • Taipei has turned a grassroots initiative into a city policy. The Taipei Garden City policy has created the opportunity to close energy, water and food resource loops in over 740 small edible gardens across the city. This initiative has created indirect benefits including citizen participation, collaborative governance and greater awareness of sustainability in Taipei.

Each case study touches on at least 2 out of the 3 elements of food, water and energy to achieve nexus, demonstrating a disjunction between the clean theory of nexus and the difficulty in its practice. Achieving a trilateral relationship across resource sectors and government departments remains a difficult challenge for most local governments given the limited resources, the lack of tools and instruments to manage cross-departmental relationships, and supporting community engagements.

The above case studies are useful resources for cities to reflect upon, learn from, and discover opportunities for implementation in their jurisdictions. They highlight some of the challenges that practitioners have overcome in taking steps towards achieving integrated solutions, and represent some interesting governance approaches that can be considered when approaching the Food-Water-Energy Nexus.

Explore each of the city cases city through the lens of Food-Water-Energy Nexus here:

The insights from these cases have been used as a foundation for a training program aimed at sharing the insights from cities to promote innovative governance approaches. The training programme, entitled ‘Innovative Governance of Food-Water-Energy Nexus in Cities – An IFWEN Training Programme’ is currently underway and may be adapted into an online self-taught course at a later stage.
This is the fourth in a series of blogs on the work being undertaken by ICLEI Africa on the Understanding innovative initiatives for Governing Food, Water and Energy Nexus in Cities Project under the Belmont Forum’s Sustainable Urban Global Initiative. This is a three year project being implemented by a consortium led by Fundação Getulio Vargas and consisting of ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, Yale University, the Stockholm Resilience Centre, Ming-Chuan University, The Nature of Cities, and the United Nations University Institute for Integrated Management of Material Fluxes and of Resources. ICLEI Africa’s work in this Project is funded by START International.

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