Applying the food-energy-water nexus approach to urban agriculture: From FEW to FEWP (Food-Energy-Water-People)

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Many studies examine the correlation between the use of resources such as water, energy and land, and the production of food. These nexus studies focus predominantly on large scale systems, often considering the social dimensions only in terms of access to resources and participation in the decision-making process, rather than individual attitudes and behaviours with respect to resource use. Such a concept of the nexus is relevant to urban agriculture (UA), but it requires customisation to the particular characteristics of growing food in cities, which is practiced mainly at a small scale and produces not only food but also considerable social, economic, and environmental co-benefits. To this end, this paper proposes a new conceptual basis for a UA Nexus, together with an assessment methodology that explicitly includes social dimensions in addition to food, energy and water. The conceptual basis introduces People, together with Food, Energy and Water, as a fundamental factor of the UA Nexus. On this basis, a methodology is developed measuring not only resource efficiency and food production but also motivations and health benefits. It comprises a combination of methods such as diaries of everyday UA practices, a database of UA activities, life cycle assessment (LCA), and material flow analysis to connect investigations developed at a garden scale to the city scale. A case study shows an application of the methodology.

Food/Energy/Water nexus
Life cycle assessment
Social benefits
Urban agriculture
Urban metabolism
Urban Resource flow
Publication Type: 
Journal Article
Urban Forestry & Urban Greening
Date Published: 
March 2021
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Full Citation: 
Caputo, Silvio, Victoria Schoen, Kathrin Specht, Baptiste Grard, Chris Blythe, Nevin Cohen, Runrid Fox-Kämper, Jason Hawes, Joshua P. Newell, Lidia Poniży (2021) “Apply the food-energy-water nexus approach to urban agriculture: From FEW to FEWP (Food-Energy-Water-People).” Urban Forestry and Urban Greening 58(126934): 1-12
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