FAPESP and the Sustainable Development Goals

Managing the food-water-energy nexus to make cities sustainable

Managing the food-water-energy nexus to make cities sustainable

An online event presented the results of five projects selected in a call issued by FAPESP in partnership with the Belmont Forum and JPI Urban Europe (image: screenshot taken during the webinar)

Published on 05/08/2023

By Maria Fernanda Ziegler  |  Agência FAPESP – Researchers at the State University of Campinas (UNICAMP) in São Paulo state, Brazil, assessed the impact of public policies relating to food production in municipalities on the outskirts of the state capital, such as Ibiúna and Mogi das Cruzes, as well as Parelheiros, a neighborhood of São Paulo city with rural characteristics.

The initiatives analyzed in the research project included community-supported agriculture involving direct sales of produce for school meals, payment for environmental services (PES), and productive integration (integrated production of fish and vegetables, for example).

More than 150 researchers and farmers, as well as municipal governments and the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), formed a network to promote the use of collective instruments to deal with relations between production and consumption of food, water and energy.

“For example, we investigated the effects on family income for small farmers who engage in productive integration. We concluded that it not only boosts income but also keeps the family in the countryside in an area of Atlantic Rainforest. The children of these farmers don’t need to get jobs in the cities, as bike couriers or whatever. Another important point is that if more people stay in farming, urbanization won’t encroach on what remains of the forest, mainly via property speculation,” said Maria Ester Soares Dal Poz, a professor at UNICAMP’s School of Applied Sciences and principal investigator for the project.

The researchers also investigated the potential for agroecological production in the region. “We found that many farmers would like to do ecological agriculture but complained of the lack of a contract, for example. Without that kind of thing, it’s very hard to invest or build capacity. They also complained of lack of institutional support to deliver produce directly for school meals,” Dal Poz said.

The project is one of five relating to the food-water-energy nexus supported by FAPESP under the aegis of the Sustainable Urbanization Global Initiative (SUGI) promoted by the Belmont Forum and JPI Urban Europe.

Jean Ometto, a researcher at Brazil’s National Space Research Institute (INPE) and a member of the steering committee for the FAPESP Research Program on Global Climate Change (RPGCC), explained that the Belmont Forum – a consortium of 29 funding agencies on six continents – uses the term “collaborative research actions” instead of calls for proposals and requires three countries to participate in any given project.

“This partnership with the institutions that belong to the Belmont Forum aims at promoting the advancement of science and transdisciplinarity, which means looking at the problem of global climate change and relations with the environment not just from an academic and scientific perspective but also from the standpoint of society as a whole,” Ometto said during an event held on April 17 to present results of the five projects selected in the SUGI call.

In another of the five projects, researchers affiliated with Getúlio Vargas Foundation’s São Paulo Business School (EAESP-FGV) partnered with ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability and other organizations to produce a guide to blue and green infrastructure designed to help make cities sustainable by improving local government efficiency and quality in managing the use of food, water and energy.

In a third project, researchers at São Paulo State University (UNESP) in Jaboticabal analyzed food production using “smart multitrophic systems”, in which byproducts, including waste, from one aquatic species are used as inputs for breeding another. They developed a facility called Citylab to run simulations for the purpose of studying the integration of fish and vegetable production. The results can be used in integrated urban food production. “The system uses and optimizes nutrients, reduces water usage, minimizes waste, and helps makes cities sustainable,” said Maria Célia Portella, principal investigator for the project.

Portella added that Citylab is a multiuser facility supported by FAPESP and open to use by other researchers based in São Paulo state.

Food-water-energy nexus

All five projects supported by FAPESP via the call issued jointly with the Belmont Forum address issues relating to climate change mitigation and adaptation or sustainable cities on the basis of approaches that take food, water and energy production into account.

“Demand for these three interconnected components is rising worldwide. All three strongly influence greenhouse gas emissions because of the pressure they exert on well-known problems such as carbon footprint and water footprint, for example,” said José Puppim, a professor at FGV.

Uncertainty due to the war in Ukraine, climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic have made the pressure on these three components even more visible, especially in cities. “The nub of the food-water-energy nexus is the tradeoffs between them – situations in which one loses if the others gain. That’s what the projects presented today are addressing,” Puppim said.

A video of the event is at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cfx_vEW6Dlw

Source: https://agencia.fapesp.br/41332