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Research project "Analysing Transformative Approaches for the Management of the Water-Energy-Food Nexus and the Advancement of the SDGs: A Workshop and Summer School Series"

Land, energy and water are among our most valuable resources, but the nature and extent to which they are currently exploited is detrimental to sustainable development. In light of the interdependencies of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and projected rapid social changes such as population growth, increasing globalization and urbanisation, economic growth and their negative impacts on and interrelations with inter alia climate and biodiversity, the need for global transformations becomes more and more urgent. However, research on transformative processes lacks (1) understanding how such change processes are induced and sustained, (2) knowledge about the formation of transformative agency and the process of transformative learning needed to sustain transformations and at last (3) understanding what context-specific constraints and enabling factors are, to which extent they limit or enable transformative processes to emerge and how they can be fostered. The research collaboration upon which this proposal is based seeks thus to better understand transformative processes associated with implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the context of the Water-Energy-Food (WEF) nexus approach. These are specifically transformative processes associated with 1) engaging power relations, 2) learning and 3) agency formation (henceforth referred to as ‘transformative processes’). The consortium members are therefore working to:

  • identify synergies and divergences by comparing and analysing transformative processes in case studies which are, and have potential to further stimulate transformative pathways to sustainability, and
  • enhance theory building, co-learning and empathy across borders using this co-learning and analytical process to strengthen cases of transformation to sustainability in Sub Saharan African countries.

Through two workshops and a summer school, the project partners propose to share knowledge, approaches and experiences on transformative  processes in the context of the WEF nexus and sustainable development with a wider audience of researchers in Sub-Saharan Africa and Germany.

The theme of transformations is of importance to research institutes undertaking similar research on  sustainable development in or with the global south. Natural resource use conflicts, exacerbated by climate change (especially in the water, food and energy sectors - and at the WEF nexus which brings them together), represent a major challenge for African countries. The events proposed will offer the opportunity for German and African academic institutes and selected WEF nexus partners to jointly investigate the importance of transformative processes in diverse cultural contexts and at different scales.

Objectives: Through the German-South African collaboration we propose a workshop and summer school series. In the workshops, experienced researchers and young academics will work together:

  1. to share approaches focussing on transformative processes in the WEF Nexus that support SDG implementation;
  2. to undertake a critical reflection on the importance of transformative processes and how these are shaped by context and scale in the WEF nexus;

The subsequent summer school will then invite lecturers from the workshops to:

  1. present new knowledge together with pre-existing knowledge relying also on case studies, to a group of young academics based on what is generated under objectives 1 and 2 specified above
  2. enable young academics from Africa and Germany to develop new networks or join existing networks, with an emphasis on female researchers whose active participation will be encouraged.   

Finally both the workshops and the summer school are intended to:

  1. strengthen international exchange and collaboration by further expanding this research community and its activities among experienced researchers and young academics.

Coordinator: Larissa Koch, larissa.koch[at]uos[dot]de

More information and the outcomes of this project, which ended in February 2022, can be found on the project website.