Supporting Stakeholders to Anticipate and Respond to Risks in a Mekong River Water-Energy-Food Nexus

This paper shares the authors’ experience implementing a participatory system dynamics modeling analysis in the Mekong river basin, a paradigmatic example for international nexus research. Their transdisciplinary research design combined participatory causal loop diagramming processes, scenario modeling, and a new resilience analysis method to identify and test anticipated water-energy-food risks in Kratie and Stung Treng provinces in northeastern Cambodia. The process generated new understanding of potential cross-sectoral and cross-level risks from major hydropower development in the region. The results showed expected trade-offs between national level infrastructure programs and local level food security, but also some new insights into the effects local population increases may have on local food production and consumption even before hydropower developments are built. The analysis shows the benefit of evaluating risks in the nexus at different system levels and over time because of how system dynamics and inflection points are taken into account. Additionally, this case illustrates the contribution participatory system-thinking processes can make to risk assessment procedures for complex systems transitions.

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Gallagher, L., B. Kopainsky, A. M. Bassi, A. Betancourt, C. Bun, P. Chan, S. Costanzo, S. St. George Freeman, C. Horm, S. Khim, M. Neang, N. Rin, K. Sereyrotha, K. Sok, C. Sovann, M. Thieme, K. Watkins, C. A. Wyborn, and C. Bréthaut

Publication Date

December 2020

Publication Name

Ecology and Society


Cambodia; Mekong; participatory research; resilience; risk; scenario analysis; system dynamics modeling; water-energy-food nexus