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

CSS Publication Number
Full Publication Date
March 2021

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.

Baptiste Grard
Chris Blythe
Kathrin Specht
Lidia Poniży
Nevin Cohen
Runrid Fox-Kämper
Silvio Caputo
Victoria Schoen
Research Areas
Energy Systems
Food & Agriculture
Food Systems and Consumer Products
Urban Systems and Built Environment
Water Resources
Food/Energy/Water nexus, Life cycle assessment, Social benefits, Urban agriculture, Urban metabolism, Urban Resource flow
Publication Type
Journal Article
Digital Object Identifier
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