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When it comes to water, sanitation, hygiene and food, can resilience thinking be useful?

Photo by Nana Kofi Acquah/MWI, CGIAR via Flickr.

Photo by CGIAR via Flickr.

This Expert Group will work on the intersection between food and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). Access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) is directly and indirectly linked to human nutrition. There is increasing awareness that food and nutrition security interventions may fail unless they are coupled with WASH interventions, especially in low and middle income countries. 

Moreover, waste from sanitation can be used to make organic fertilizers, contributing to food security. This suggests that coupling WASH and food security interventions can not only improve food safety and health, but also provide space for higher resource efficiency, like nutrient cycling.

All that said, there is a need for more guidance about how to link WASH, food and nutrition security sectors. Concrete examples are needed, which we aim to provide by examining case studies on integrated work with water, sanitation and food and nutrition security from a cross-sectoral and resilience perspective. The expert group will provide an opportunity to exchange experiences between practitioners, researchers and private sector, while providing a resource for anyone interested to explore case studies.

The Group will identify around 10 examples of cross-sectoral WASH, food

and nutrition projects from low- and middle-income countries. Each case will be examined on the matter of:

  1. motivation for collaboration;
  2. ways in which collaborations were realised;
  3. lessons learned.

Secondly, the Group will link WASH, food and nutrition security bundle with the concept of resilience. The concept of resilience has recently gained substantial traction within the food and nutrition security community, but received relatively little attention within the WASH community. Although the resilience science is still shaping, it is well-known that it integrates many fields. Therefore, adopting resilience thinking can foster the benefits of cross-sectoral work on the intersection of WASH and food sectors.

Moreover, resilience explicitly acknowledges a dynamic and complex reality, suggesting that it could serve as a useful concept for dealing with changing social and environmental conditions affecting the WASH and food sectors. At the same time, resilience is criticised by development practitioners and thinkers for ignoring human dimensions, such as power agency, vulnerability and human rights.

Having that in mid, will resilience thinking be helpful for integration of WASH and food? Building on the case studies, the Group will answer if applying resilience lens to WASH and food security, would improve understanding and management of complex interactions between the two sectors.