Hungry for water

Water is needed to grow food and produce energy to transport food (Currie et al., 2017). However, the flow of food in the city was affected during the water crisis.

The flow of food is very different to water as it is not processed and supplied by the state in a centralised and regulated manner. Food makes up 18% of the total material consumption in Cape Town (Hoekman and von Blottnitz 2016).

Counting down to Day Zero | eNCA
Figure 1, Western Cape. Source: News24

Food insecurity:

The connections between climate and the water-energy-food nexus are strong. Surrounding Cape Town is farmlands in the Western Cape where agriculture is an important part of the socioeconomic fabric. A third of the water in the 6 dam river catchment system goes to irrigation. Agricultural water is usually allocated based on crop type and the area planted, however, the water shortage decreased the allowance by 60-87% which dramatically decreased farmers yields. For example, in February 2018, cumulative losses for the Western Cape’s agricultural sector were estimated at $US1.2 billion. This led to incredibly significant losses and hardship for the agricultural community, including 30,000 job losses. This affected black communities the most.

4 Water energy food direct cycle | Download Scientific Diagram
Figure 2, cycle of water in making food. Source: Mapeli et al., 2014.

Furthermore, humans were forced to interrupt nature as 22% of sheep were culled due to the lack of fodder available in the drought.

Little attention was paid to the rural areas as coverage focused on the city itself despite the food sources produced there.


Long term strategies have since been deployed to prevent similar disasters occurring again. They include support from the government with production and labour subsidies, improving irrigation infrastructure to ensure increased production and sustainability and exploring crop insurance programmes to protect producers in the future (PMA 2017).


Many challenges face the water-food nexus. With increasing urbanisation and population and food demand (Hoornweg et al., 2012), there is a rising importance of the need for construction and operation of long term strategies.

Word count: 335


Currie, P.K., Musango, J.K. and May, N.D. (2017). Urban metabolism: A review with reference to Cape Town. Cities, 70, pp.91–110.

Hoekman, P. and von Blottnitz, H., 2017. Cape Town’s metabolism: Insights from a material flow analysis. Journal of Industrial Ecology21(5), pp.1237-1249.

Hoornweg, D.A., Campillo, G., Expert, C.C., Linders, D., Platform, U.K., Saldivar-Sali, A.N., Bermudo, G.C. and Sugar, L., 2012. MAINSTREAMING URBAN METABOLISM: ADVANCES AND.

PMA (2017). South Africa’s Extreme Drought. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Jan. 2021].

Sparks, C., 2020. Microplastics in mussels along the coast of Cape Town, South Africa. Bulletin of environmental contamination and toxicology, pp.1-9.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create your website with
Get started
%d bloggers like this: