Addressing the Agriculture, Energy, Water, Climate Change Nexus

12-13 August 2019, Canberra


Dr Jim Woodhill

Food Systems Advisor, Sustainable Development Investment Portfolio of DFAT’s South Asia Regional Program

Dr Jim Woodhill is the Food Systems Advisor for DFAT’s South Asia Sustainable Development Investment Portfolio. An Honorary Research Associate with the University of Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute and an independent consultant, Jim is a specialist on inclusive agribusiness, rural development, food security and multi-stakeholder partnerships, with over 25 years of international development experience. Formerly Jim was the Principal Sector Specialist for Food Security and Rural Development with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Prior to this he was Director of the Centre for Development Innovation at Wageningen University and Research Centre in the Netherlands. He holds a PhD in political economics and a degree in agricultural science. 

Energy, Agriculture and Rural Development


Rising populations, rapid urbanization, industrial expansion and economic growth is projected to significantly increase in the demand for water, energy and food in South Asia over the next two decades (energy demand alone is projected to more than double by 2040). Water availability per capita is expected to continue its long term decline (particularly in Pakistan and parts of India where it could reach crisis levels in some subregions in the next 20 years). Arable land per capita will also continue to fall and food supply increases will need to come through intensification of agricultural production systems and/or increased food imports.

Climate change is expected to exacerbate these emerging resource scarcity issues. Rising temperatures, changes to water resource availability (due to melting glaciers and changed precipitation regimes), and the projected increase in the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events (droughts, floods and heat waves) are all projected to adversely impact on economic production, especially in the agriculture and energy sectors.

Maintaining water, energy and food security going forward will be a significant challenge for South Asian countries. Competition for land and water resources is set to intensify, driven by increased demand from agriculture, the energy sector and industry. Emerging resource constraints may involve difficult resource allocation trade-off decisions across sectors in the near future. Balancing the competing demands across sectors will be essential to sustaining future economic growth, poverty alleviation (especially achieving SDG targets) and maintaining political security at the national and regional level. The extent to which South Asian countries can effectively manage these emerging issues will largely determine the region’s future economic development trajectory.

Adopting a more integrated ‘nexus’ based approach to natural resource management and development planning offers considerable potential to deliver improved water, energy and food (WEF) security outcomes It could also contribute to enhanced climate change resilience.  Australia, through the Sustainable Development Investment Portfolio, is supporting countries to better manage these emerging WEF security constraints, through targeted aid program investments and public/economic diplomacy. The focus of this paper is to highlight some of the innovative approaches that have been supported through SDIP and how they are contributing to improved development outcomes in the agriculture and energy sectors in South Asia.