The need for a bottom-up approach to address the WEFe Nexus

The need for a bottom-up approach to address the WEFe Nexus

The need for a bottom-up approach to address the WEFe Nexus

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The Mediterranean region is facing growing challenges – climate change, population growth, urbanization – with which it has to cope. Climate change in the Mediterranean is occurring at a rate above the global average, with a warming which is 20% faster. Furthermore, the continued intensification of agricultural practices will result in adverse consequences for water resources, biodiversity and landscape functioning. Changing demand patterns have already led to growing demands for water, energy and food, thereby overexploiting existing water reservoirs and groundwater and an overuse of ecosystem services. The Mediterranean region, including its population, is vulnerable to such climate change impacts and changing circumstances. These impacts will exert additional pressure on already strained ecosystems and on vulnerable economies and societies.

Out of these circumstances arises the need to find a solution to ensure food, energy and water security in a sustainable way without further damaging the environment – bottom-up solutions. “Bottom-up” means that impulses and/or suggestions for decisions arise at the lower levels of the hierarchy and are passed on from there to the top. The aim is to achieve a greater sense of belonging through the participation of the lower levels, so that all those involved stand behind the decision and thus better work results are achieved. In an ideal case, there will be a cooperation between science, civil society, communities and the policy level and co-creation can be achieved. The term “co-creation” refers to the targeted cooperation of different interest groups, such as civil society, NGOs, researcher, government actors etc., to achieve a common goal.

In many debates, the Water, Energy, Food and Ecosystem Nexus (WEFe Nexus) idea is predominantly approached in a top-down way, with various high-level policy dialogues and initiatives. BONEX aims to move away from such a top-down approach, by including different stakeholders from different levels in a participatory way. BONEX will thereby bridge the gap between WEFe Nexus policies and governance and their local implementation. BONEX is designed as a holistic project based on transdisciplinary and multi-dimensionality. This implies an extensive participation of all stakeholders from the beginning to the end. All actors of the value chain, such as researchers, farmers’ organizations, businesses in the agri-food chain, public administration, technology providers, civil society organizations, and consumers shall be included in a close collaboration.

With regard to the Mediterranean Region, it also means that people who are threatened by climate change, such as farmers, advisors, local water and other ecosystem services users, should be involved in decision-making processes, thereby considering their knowledge and solutions. A close collaboration also implies that actors at lower hierarchical levels often know the people, institutions and organisations affected better and can assess their needs as well as possible difficulties more directly. Bottom-up approaches aim to distance themselves from “one-size-fits-all”-solutions. In order to promote actors’ resilience to climate change in the context of the WEFe Nexus, user-friendly and accessible tools and methods need to be designed. This can work best if local actors’ decision-making context is considered and grass-roots participation will be ensured. Through collaborations, there will also be a mutual learning effect. A basic principle is that the acceptance of farmers and public administrations is crucial for implementation of new technologies and ideas. In this way, no methods or tools should be introduced that the learners are not able to implement on their own. A participatory bottom-up approach is a cornerstone for the success of facing growing challenges and gives involved people opportunities for self-empowerment.

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