FAO Report: Bioenergy Has a Future in Developing Countries

Bioenergy holds great promise to create income and labor opportunities for developing countries, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. But the industry is often neglected by policy makers and needs to be urgently integrated into agricultural and forestry programs.

Rome, Italy – June 18, 2004 [SolarAccess.com] “Countries need to move towards more sustainable energy systems based on energy sources such as biomass, solar and wind energies,” said Gustavo Best, senior FAO energy coordinator. FAO promotes sustainable bioenergy systems for poverty alleviation, and assists its member countries in the integration of wood energy and agro energy into agriculture, forestry and rural energy development efforts. The organization works with the Shenyang Agricultural University in China in developing new sweet sorghum varieties and technologies to produce ethanol to substitute gasoline. Sweet sorghum has the advantage of producing both animal feed and sugars for energy conversion. Biogas from livestock waste was promoted by FAO as fuel for cooking in Nepal. FAO is also developing bioenergy activities in Brazil focusing on the integration of energy and conservation agriculture. Bioenergy includes fuel wood and charcoal; energy crops such as sugar cane, sweet sorghum, rapeseed, and agricultural and forestry residues. These sources are used to produce heat, ethanol, biodiesel, bioelectricity or biogas. Currently, energy from biomass sources accounts for 15 percent of energy consumed worldwide and for up to 90 percent in some developing countries. Wood energy accounts for up to 9 percent of world energy consumption, and for up to 80 percent in some developing countries. Wood fuels account for 60 percent of global forest products consumption. Bioenergy in general, and wood energy in particular, are the dominant sources of energy for about half of the world’s population. It is often the poorest of the poor who use this energy, mainly for cooking. Sustainable bioenergy systems should be promoted to prevent forest degradation or deforestation. Deterioration of watersheds, and loss of soil fertility and biodiversity could also be prevented, Best said. Bioenergy can contribute to diversify agricultural and forestry production. Positive examples are the production of ethanol from sugar, sorghum and cassava. Biodiesel is made from rapeseed and other energy crops. Considerable amounts of fossil fuels can be displaced by bioenergy. “There are indications of a growing and potentially very large carbon market converting agriculture into a major player in this field,” Best said. “International bioenergy trading is becoming a reality; wood, wood chips, ethanol, biodiesel and bioelectricity are being transported across borders. It needs to be ensured that the farmers do not miss the benefits of this trade,” Best said.
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