DAFNE Project Partners come together for Kick-off Meeting in Zurich

The Horizon 2020 "Decision-Analytic Framework to explore the water-energy-food NExus in complex and transboundary water resources systems of fast growing developing countries" (DAFNE) project held its official kick-off meeting at ETH in Zurich from September 7th - 9th 2016. The project advocates an integrated and adaptive water resources planning and management approach that explicitly addresses the water-energy-food (WEF) nexus from a novel participatory and multidisciplinary perspective. It is a 4-year project (2016-20), which is funded by the European Union (Horizon 2020) and its total budget is 5,320,410 euros.

The participants (partners) are representatives of a wide variety of sciences and technologies from over the world, as one can notice from the following list: Eidgenoessische Technische Hochschule Zuerich (ETHZ) as coordinator, Politecnico di Milano (POLIMI), International Centre for Research on the Environment and the Economy (Icre8), Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KULEUVEN), The University Court of the University of Aberdeen (UABDN), Universitaet Osnabruck (U0), International Water Management Institute (IWMI), African Collaborative Centre for Earth System Science (ACCESS), Arba Minch University (AMU), University of Zambia (UNZA), Universidade Eduardo Mondlane (EMU), Vista Geowissenschaftliche Fernerkundung GmbH (VISTA-GEO), ATEC-3D Ltd. (ATEC-3D), European Institute for Participatory Media EV (EIPCM).

ICRE8 has the important role to develop models of economic, demographic and socio-cultural developments, and to propose water governance and environmental policy principles. The models of economic development will support the principle of sustainable development, hence combining social development indices/proxies and environmental protection, and will be translated into mathematical tools to make it possible to connect them with the WEF nexus modelling and with the Decision Analytic Framework. This will make possible the exploration of robust adaptation pathways in the context of rapidly changing conditions and climate change. Demographic trends and migration-driven population displacements will be also addressed by means of models, while the development of “social learning models” will contribute to the understanding of stakeholders’ perception of the competition among water uses, thereby including the water needs for the preservation of natural resources, and how such perception can evolve in relation to specific, newly-designed policies.

The meeting was a chance to bring together all the different DAFNE collaborative partners to undertake a comprehensive run-through of the project ‘Description of Action’ and make sure all parties are on the same page before the project begins in earnest.  For many, it was a great opportunity to meet in person for the first time and put faces to names. The EU officers were very excited for our presence and seemed very keen to start our collaboration. Dr. Xanthi Kartala, Dr. Nikos Englezos, and research associate Josef Adler were in Zurich representing ICRE8, while Prof. Phoebe Koundouri (ICRE8, AUEB, LSE) and Dr. Ebun Akinsete joined in via teleconference.  Dr. Englezos and Prof. Koundouri made a presentation on ICRE8’s contribution to the project - leading the work package (WP) on ‘Modelling social, economic and institutional developments’, as well as input on tasks in four other work packages.

The meeting also introduced the two project case studies in the Zambezi and Omo river basins in South-Eastern Africa, with presentations made by the case study teams.

Each case study will have a case study leader of its own. The two case-study leaders will be responsible for (a) coordinating activities related to the case studies (e.g. data collection, logistic of local project activities, etc.), (b) connecting WP leaders with local agencies and data providers and (c) first contact/interaction with local stakeholders and institutions.

The discussion focused initially on the data collection since this is the first step of the analysis. Firstly, there is a need for strategy on how to formulate and test indicators/variables that should be included in the models, so as to make use of the specific data of the Omo and Zambezi river basin, accounting the variation and peculiarities of each area and considering the changing environment. Secondly, it is necessary to identify a wish-list of the variables or categories of datasets that might be used considering their availability, their format and finally data license, due to ethnical concerns.   

Furthermore, it is important to organize a visit to the local stakeholders in Omo and Zambezi river basin (suggested places: Addis Abeba for Omo and Lusaka for Zambezi) to introduce the project and get a first input from their side. The suggested format is a workshop where both project partners and local stakeholders have the opportunity to present their ideas and issues, with some preliminary model results to be shown, that can trigger a positive collaborative atmosphere. The goal is to activate contacts, meet stakeholders, understand the key water resources management issues in the basins and explain the project. Finally, the early identification of the stakeholders is key to support the construction of present and future scenarios and pathways (i.e. sequences of actions) for the future.

Last but not least, ICRE8 suggested that it is crucial to have a roadmap that sets the principles guiding the interaction with the stakeholders (approach, meetings, clustering of stakeholders, etc.) to facilitate the work of the entire consortium. The roadmap should account for the final objective of the project, which is more on the process of raising awareness / understanding on how negotiation could be facilitated by a Decision Analytic Framework, rather than suggesting a final solution to be implemented in each of the case study.

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