The article takes hydro-development schemes in the Upper Blue Nile Basin of Ethiopia as an example to discuss the suitability and shortcomings of nexus approaches for the analysis of complex socio-ecological transformations. Based on critical theoretical debates and extensive field research in Ethiopia, the paper broadens the nexus perspective by integrating the three analytical dimensions of time, space, and power. The empirical material comes from a case study of the Fincha-Amerti-Neshe scheme that was implemented in three consecutive stages over almost half a century, combining dams, hydro-power plants, large-scale sugar cane plantations, and a factory for sugar production. The empirical findings follow the historical stages of the scheme and their physical outcomes, which affected much more than just water, energy, and food. The paper explores socio-ecological transformations along the analytical dimensions of time, scale, and power. First, it views time and temporality as essential aspects of change and calls for a more systematic recognition of the historical context out of which development trajectories and current nexus situations have emerged. Second, it takes a cross-scalar perspective to explain how local land use is influenced by regional and global drivers. And third, it emphasizes the importance of asymmetric power structures to explain the dynamics of hydro-developments and their social consequences. In conclusion, the paper calls for a “nexus-plus” perspective that is more sensitive to the historical and cross-scalar embeddedness of hydro-development, and which enables more inclusive and fair governance of scarce resources.
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