What is IFWEN?
IFWEN is a Belmont Forum funded international team of researchers and stakeholders working to advance knowledge about urban governance related to food, water, and energy nexus (FWEN) connections in cities, and Green and Blue Infrastructure (GBI) as its base. IFWEN stands for: Understanding Innovative Initiatives for Governing Food, Water, and Energy Nexus in Cities.
Improved governance of the interactions between food, water, and energy in cities can provide significant benefits in addressing some of the most complex global problems, including climate change and biodiversity loss, as well as help achieve other developmental goals such as food security and health.
This team of researchers, practitioners and creative professionals worked together from 2018-2021 to advance knowledge about urban governance at different levels related to the FWE nexus (FWEN) using Green and Blue Infrastructure (GBI), by developing new concepts and approaches to understand how to assess, govern and build GBI solutions and policies.
The project developed a framework, and tools to assess changes in FWEN, for cities that highlight trade-offs and promotes building innovative capabilities in cities for building better solutions. The project also visualized and created creative experiences around the data produced to help promote, explain, and advocate for FWEN interconnections in cities.
This website hosts the collection of resources that resulted from the project.
What is the FWEN concept?
In the 21st Century, innovation has become THE buzz word in every policy and management forum, and a main or complementary research topic in almost every discipline. Innovation is the generation of new ideas, services, systems and processes. It is a broad and flexible enough concept that anyone can relate to positively. However, implementing new or innovative approaches in institutional contexts is easier said than done, as people naturally resist change, especially when innovation requires changing behavior.
Innovation is important for sustainability as new ideas foster better solutions and improvements in existing systems. There have already been many technological innovations for sustainability, such as the development of renewable energy technologies. However, achieving sustainable development will also require many social innovations, where communities and institutions find new creative solutions to social and environmental challenges.
In the urban FWE nexus approach, we address food, water and energy resources from a systemic point of view to understand and manage their interrelations, securing access and efficiency in their provision to urban populations. “FOOD” is analyzed within the framework of “food security”, broadly defined by the United Nations´ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO, 2002) as “[…] a situation that exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”. Food as a land resource is usually addressed by research and management from health, nutrition, logistics and even cultural angles. As an interdependent element of the urban nexus system, its multidimensional performance is analyzed by scholarship from different perspectives across disciplines such as sociology, economy, ecology, etc., since the mid-2000s (Zhang et al., 2018). Most modern cities do not produce food within their territories, extending their demand between boundaries in all scales. Food can be imported from neighboring cities and even distant countries, impacting resources elsewhere, increasing distribution costs, carbon and ecological footprints. And while nutrition is an issue that includes contradictory health consequences, such as obesity and stunted growth, food waste continues to be huge, even in developing countries, due to poor management and distribution failure. An integrated approach such as the FWEN could help reduce these consequences.
Water is the source of all life on the Planet. In cities water carries benefits that are usually taken for granted by most people. We only become aware of its importance when we lose access to supply or face shortages. The relationship between water-energy-land resources and their respective policies can be explained briefly. Water policies, for example, are commonly based only on water analysis (elaborated and regulated by a specific agency) and they might have adverse unforeseen effects specially on energy and land resources and the climate. The same happens to energy/land resources, where policies are also based only on analysis of energy/land issues. Since the current policies are based on existing models that usually focus on one resource and ignore interconnections with other resources, better methods and models that consider all the interlinkages among water, energy and land are needed. Thus, a water-energy-food nexus approach that considers both the physical and the economic implications of different policy strategies could be a major opportunity for integrated solutions that respond to the interdependencies of water, energy, food and economic systems (IISD, 2013).
Energy is arguably the main pillar of our civilization and urban lifestyle. It fuels progress, well being and growth. Since our societies have become aware about the massive scale of negative impacts resulting from our fossil fuel-based energy consumption, shifting to renewable and new sources became imperative to protect life on Earth. Examining power generation and consumption in light of the FWEN nexus shows the urgent need for an integrated approach. Assessments of land use, energy and water are often carried out in isolation by disconnected institutions. An institution focusing on water resources, for example, is likely to consider food and energy systems as end users. Similarly, agricultural assessments might see energy and water as resources, and the energy sector is likely to treat biomass (waste) and water (rivers) Energy is arguably the main pilar of our civilization and urban lifestyle. It fuels progress, wellbeing and growth. Since our societies have become aware about the massive scale of negative impacts resulting from our fossil fuel-based energy consumption, shifting to renewable and new sources became an imperative to protect life on Earth. Examining power generation and consumption in light of the FWE nexus shows the urgent need for an integrated approach. Assessments of land use, energy and water are often carried out in isolation by disconnected institutions. An institution focusing on water resources, for example, is likely to consider food and energy systems as end users. Similarly, agricultural assessments might see energy and water as resources, and the energy sector is likely to treat biomass (waste) and water (rivers) as inputs. Thus, promoting renewable energy (allocated or not in urban areas) through the current sector-driven approach, disregarding indirect transboundary impacts on land and water resources and GHG emissions, could counteract the so-desired sustainable development of cities and the fight against climate change.
Many thanks to the entire IFWEN International Consortium members including all past members for their incredible contributions to this project:
José A. Puppim de Oliveira
Laura Valente de Macedo
Marc Barda Picavet
Ana Maria Bedran
Ioana Gabriela Simion
Naomi Elise Chatfield-Smith
Ayoola Paul Adeogun
- Chung, W-C. and Shih, W-Y. (2021) Benefits and Challenges of Urban Gardens in Densely Developed Cities: a Case Study of Taipei Garden City Programme, International Consortium of Landscape and Ecological Engineering, Taipei, Taiwan, Nov 2021
- Shih, W-Y. (08/2021) “How were innovative outcomes formed in the Taipei Garden City programme?”, Delivered at the Innovative Governance of Food-Water-Energy Nexus in Cities-An IFWEN Training Programme, ICLEI.
- Shih, W-Y. (09/2020) “Assessing the Role of Green Infrastructure in Underpinning Urban Nexus for Climate Change Adaptation (評估綠色基盤在支持都市鏈結以調適氣候變遷的角色)”, Delivered at the Kick-off Meeting of Sustainable Discipline, Ministry of Science and Technology, Taipei, Taiwan. (In Chinese)
- Hellmer, E. (12/2019) Edible Urban Greenspace: Addressing Food, Water and Energy Issues in Cities, Delivered at Graduate institute of Humanity in Medicine, Taipei Medical University.
- Shih, W-Y. and Ahmad, S. (09/2018). Spatial inequality? The influence of green infrastructure on electricity consumption in Taipei’s urban neighbourhoods, Global Land Programme 2018 Asia Conference, Taipei, Taiwan. Sep 2018
- Valente de Macedo, L. S., Picavet, M. E. B., Puppim de Oliveira, J. A., Shih, W-Y. (2021). Urban green and blue Infrastructure: a critical analysis of the research on middle-income countries in the global south. Journal of Cleaner Production. Elsevier.
- Shih, W-Y. (submitted). Inequality in Heat Adaptation Benefits from Green Infrastructure in a Subtropical City Context.
- Mabon, L., Shih, W-Y., Jou, S-C. (submitted) Integration of knowledge systems in green infrastructure initiatives: insight from Taipei Garden City.
- Shih, W-Y. and Hellmer, E. (in preparation) A Lens on Food-Water-Energy Nexus of Edible Greenspaces in a Dense City.
- Rik Glauert and Chen Huan-ran (2021, Aug 12) Urban Farming Takes Root in Taiwan (https://taiwanplus.com/vods?q=rik%20glauert&v=80000330)
- Shih, W-Y. (2021, March 2). Making Spaces for Edible Gardens in Compact Cities: the Taipei Case, The Nature of Cities. (https://www.thenatureofcities.com/2021/03/02/making-spaces-for-edible-gardens-in-compact-cities-the-taipei-case/)
- Shih, W-Y. (2020, June 28). Taipei Urban Farm under Threat, Taipei Times, p.6. (https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/editorials/archives/2020/06/28/2003738972)
- Shih, W-Y. (2020, Dec 1). The Pandemic Magnifies Spatial Inequality Arising from Greenspace Planning in Cities, Urban Green Adaptation Diary (https://urbangreenadaptationdiary.wordpress.com/2020/12/01/pandemic-is-catalyzing-a-transformation-of-greenspace-planning-in-cities/)
- Shih, W-Y. (2020, April 13). Make compact cities edible: the Taipei Garden City Initiative, Urban Green Adaptation Diary (https://urbangreenadaptationdiary.wordpress.com/2020/04/13/make-compact-cities-edible-the-taipei-garden-city-initiative/)
IFWEN Guide and Case Studies
Florianopolis, Brazil: Urban agriculture and community engagement
Sao Jose dos Campos, Brazil: Participatory management for urban forest conservation
Gangtok, India: Closing the loop in the waste management and food sectors
Nagpur, India: Innovation for increased efficiency in the water-energy nexus
Taipei, Chinese Taipei: Education and land-use reforms as urban nexus innovations
Discover the Project
Thank you kindly to the Belmont Forum, JPI Urban Europe, European Commission and the Sustainable Urbanisation Global Initiative (SUGI), NSF, FAPESP, FORMAS, START, MOST, BMBF, and Future Earth for financially supporting the IFWEN International Research-Innovation Project.
Thank you to all of the IFWEN Project Partners
FGV – Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV)
São Paulo School of Management (FGV EAESP)
São Paulo, Brazil
The Stockholm Resilience Center
Ming-Chuan University (MCU)
Department of Urban Planning and Disaster Management (UPDM)
Taipei, Taiwan (China)
ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability –World Secretariat
(ICLEI-W), Bonn, Germany
The Africa Secretariat of ICLEI – Local Governments for
Cape Town, South Africa