Balancing water, food and energy to drive sustainable development

The EPIC Africa project, which I am so proud to be part of and coordinate from TU Delft, focuses on improving water management and energy planning in Sub-Saharan Africa. Our goal is to optimize the utilization of scarce water and land resources by employing climate-land-energy-water resources and infrastructure data, mathematical models, and fostering cooperation between countries and sectors. Water is vital for drinking, sanitation, agriculture, and energy generation, and it’s concerning to see its availability increasingly threatened by climate change while demand continues to rise.  I strongly emphasize that poor water management can hinder a country’s economic development and even lead to conflict between different sectors and users.

As a research project, EPIC Africa adopts a nexus approach, connecting energy, food, and water systems to shape sustainability transitions in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

Dr Edo Abraham, visiting the floating solar station at Bui dam, Ghana, in November 2022.

Our focus areas include Ghana, Burkina Faso, and Kenya, specifically the transboundary Volta River basin and the Tana River basin. We are exploring challenges such as balancing electricity production and flood risk at hydropower dams. Additionally, we are determined to promote transnational cooperation because the current collaboration between sectors and countries is limited. I firmly believe that cooperation can lead to optimal water-energy infrastructures, shared benefits, and cost savings among nations.

In EPIC Africa, we recognize the importance of data and predictive models for decision-making. We utilise various data sources, including satellite imagery and in-situ weather stations, to optimise reservoir operations, locate new dams, and assess the impact on activities like irrigation. The work in our project has also highlighted the need for a combination of data-driven models and collaborative efforts in transition spaces, where all relevant stakeholders contribute to evidence-based policy-making.

Furthermore, I strongly argue why firsthand experiences and visits to African countries, including co-creation and transition management activities between EU and African country partners, play a vital role in the EPIC Africa project. These visits allow us to observe dam management, understand the socio-economic and policy priorities, and appreciate the vastness and diversity of the African continent. I firmly advocate against a one-size-fits-all approach to clean energy transitions in Africa and emphasize the importance of tailored solutions based on local contexts, and driven and owned by local research networks.

DATE: Sunday, 11th June 2023
AUTHOR: Dr Edo Abraham, Associate Professor of Water & Control, TU Delft