The Water-Energy-Food Nexus in the Arab World and Financial Challenges

Martin Keulertz and I have published a new article in the International Journal of Water Resources Development: “Financial Challenges of the Nexus: Pathways for investment in water, energy and agriculture in the Arab world.”


The Water–Energy–Food (WEF) nexus is a development challenge in the Arab world,
particularly in the ‘core nexus countries’ with low to mid-incomes in which limited
water endowments permit agricultural production, such as Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia,
Lebanon, Algeria, Sudan and Jordan. The WEF nexus is often conceptualized in mere
technocratic terms, yet politics matter in the implementation of projects that address it.
Internalizing hydrological externalities or leaving them as they are and financing them
as a public good requires states whose capacities have been reduced as a result of
neoliberal reform. The article explores five different pathways of how Arab countries
could finance green growth projects ranging from regional financial markets to
concessionary loans by funds from oil rich Gulf countries.

Bahrain launches $265m food security fund

Like Qatar, Bahrain also sets its site on “food self-sufficiency.” The announcement of the fund does not mention the futuristic means like hydroponics and solar based desalination that the Qatar National Food Security Program is aiming at. Its focus is more on dairy farming, aquaculture and above all poultry. Of course for real self-sufficiency Bahrain does not have the water and the arable land. It will need to import the feedstock (e.g. grains, soybeans, fishmeal) for livestock and aquaculture, which will create new import dependence. That does not need to be bad. The country like the rest of the Gulf will need to rely on food trade and poultry production close to home might be more efficient than importing it from far away Brazil, which is the main provider of poultry meat to the Gulf. The case for dairy farming in the desert and on a small island with limited land reserve is less compelling. In aquaculture Bahrain like Saudi Arabia aims at carnivorous saltwater fish and shrimps, not at sweet water fish with its much more favorable conversion efficiency from plant based input factors to animal proteins. The size of the fund ($265 mn) is rather paltry compared to Bahrain’s need. While not realistic, the rhetoric of food self-sufficiency is ever present in the announcement of the project, which should also satisfy commercial aspirations. It always helps to sing from the hymn sheet of self-sufficiency to push forward the latter.

Bahrain: New plan to tackle water shortages

BAHRAIN is exploring the possibility of creating underground reservoirs as a way of tackling water shortages. If given the go-ahead they would hold surplus treated waste water to be used for irrigation. Environmental experts have already conducted a small scale study to assess the health risks of storing treated waste water and are now proposing to hold a pilot study in the field.The proposal will be put forward in the Second National Communication on Climate Change that will be submitted to the United Nations next month.