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    Mongabay, a leading resource for news and perspectives on environmental and conservation issues related to the tropics, has launched Tropical Conservation Science - a new, open access academic e-journal. It will cover a wide variety of scientific and social studies on tropical ecosystems, their biodiversity and the threats posed to them. Tropical Conservation Science - March 8, 2008.

    At the 148th Meeting of the OPEC Conference, the oil exporting cartel decided to leave its production level unchanged, sending crude prices spiralling to new records (above $104). OPEC "observed that the market is well-supplied, with current commercial oil stocks standing above their five-year average. The Conference further noted, with concern, that the current price environment does not reflect market fundamentals, as crude oil prices are being strongly influenced by the weakness in the US dollar, rising inflation and significant flow of funds into the commodities market." OPEC - March 5, 2008.

    Kyushu University (Japan) is establishing what it says will be the world’s first graduate program in hydrogen energy technologies. The new master’s program for hydrogen engineering is to be offered at the university’s new Ito campus in Fukuoka Prefecture. Lectures will cover such topics as hydrogen energy and developing the fuel cells needed to convert hydrogen into heat or electricity. Of all the renewable pathways to produce hydrogen, bio-hydrogen based on the gasification of biomass is by far both the most efficient, cost-effective and cleanest. Fuel Cell Works - March 3, 2008.

    An entrepreneur in Ivory Coast has developed a project to establish a network of Miscanthus giganteus farms aimed at producing biomass for use in power generation. In a first phase, the goal is to grow the crop on 200 hectares, after which expansion will start. The project is in an advanced stage, but the entrepreneur still seeks partners and investors. The plantation is to be located in an agro-ecological zone qualified as highly suitable for the grass species. Contact us - March 3, 2008.

    A 7.1MW biomass power plant to be built on the Haiwaiian island of Kaua‘i has received approval from the local Planning Commission. The plant, owned and operated by Green Energy Hawaii, will use albizia trees, a hardy species that grows in poor soil on rainfall alone. The renewable power plant will meet 10 percent of the island's energy needs. Kauai World - February 27, 2008.

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Malawi's super harvest proves biofuel critics wrong - or, how to beat hunger and produce more oil than OPEC

An army of development 'experts', food aid agencies, NGOs, 'green' journalists and malthusians have tried to wage a war against bioenergy, saying it will impact the food security of the poor, because the planet doesn't have enough land or resources and because markets fail. They often point to countries that are suffering famines to make their case, saying they can never produce both food and fuels.

Now the mother of all examples that completely smashes this static, irrational, malthusian vision comes from Malawi, long seen as a miserable begging bowl in permanent crisis. Anyone who dares to suggest that Malawi, of all places, can grow enough biofuels and food to both feed its entire population while powering its entire economy with green fuels, will be labelled a 'criminal' or a 'psycho'. Well, this year's super harvest in Malawi proves that the psycho is in fact the rational one in the crowd.

This year, Malawi is selling corn to the UN's World Food Program and is exporting hundreds of thousands of tons of corn to its hungry neighbors. Had it decided to turn it into biofuels, it would have replaced all its imported and expensive fossil fuels all at once and become entirely oil independent (Malawi consumes around 5,500 barrels of oil per day).

From begging bowl to major food and virtual fuel exporter... How is this possible? What happened? How come the starving stomachs used so profusely by anti-bioenergy advocates are suddenly so full of food, so full in fact that the country's farmers are swimming in food?

Well, all of this is due to an extremely simple intervention: a moratorium on listening to doomers, World Bank experts, NGOs and other self-declared experts who have a history of advocating disastrous plans. The government of Malawi did the contrary, and finally implemented what rational people with a knowledge of African agriculture have been urging it to do for ages: making available cheap fertilizers. That's it. Nothing more.

We haven't even begun to talk about other very basic interventions, such as providing better seeds, improving infrastructures (road, rail, waterways), making available cheaper fuels (biofuels instead of petrofuels), disseminating basic agronomic insight, improving market access, creating a fair global trade regime, and so on. No, just a single one of these basics makes the difference between starvation and becoming a major regional food exporter.

The effects of this simple intervention have been truly amazing. In Malawi itself, writes Celia Dugger in Ending Famine, Simply by Ignoring the Experts, the prevalence of acute child hunger has fallen sharply. In October, the United Nations Children’s Fund sent three tons of powdered milk, stockpiled here to treat severely malnourished children, to Uganda instead. “We will not be able to use it!” Juan Ortiz-Iruri, Unicef’s deputy representative in Malawi, said jubilantly:
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Farmers explain Malawi’s extraordinary turnaround — one with broad implications for hunger-fighting methods across Africa — with one word: fertilizer.

Over the past 20 years, the World Bank and some rich nations Malawi depends on for aid have periodically pressed this small, landlocked country to adhere to free market policies and cut back or eliminate fertilizer subsidies, even as the United States and Europe extensively subsidized their own farmers. But after the 2005 harvest, the worst in a decade, Bingu wa Mutharika, Malawi’s newly elected president, decided to follow what the West practiced, not what it preached.

Stung by the humiliation of pleading for charity, he led the way to reinstating and deepening fertilizer subsidies despite a skeptical reception from the United States and Britain. Malawi’s soil, like that across sub-Saharan Africa, is gravely depleted, and many, if not most, of its farmers are too poor to afford fertilizer at market prices.

“As long as I’m president, I don’t want to be going to other capitals begging for food,” Mr. Mutharika declared. Patrick Kabambe, the senior civil servant in the Agriculture Ministry, said the president told his advisers, “Our people are poor because they lack the resources to use the soil and the water we have.”

The country’s successful use of subsidies is contributing to a broader reappraisal of the crucial role of agriculture in alleviating poverty in Africa and the pivotal importance of public investments in the basics of a farm economy: fertilizer, improved seed, farmer education, credit and agricultural research.

Malawi, an overwhelmingly rural nation about the size of Pennsylvania, is an extreme example of what happens when those things are missing. As its population has grown and inherited landholdings have shrunk, impoverished farmers have planted every inch of ground. Desperate to feed their families, they could not afford to let their land lie fallow or to fertilize it. Over time, their depleted plots yielded less food and the farmers fell deeper into poverty.

Malawi’s leaders have long favored fertilizer subsidies, but they reluctantly acceded to donor prescriptions, often shaped by foreign-aid fashions in Washington, that featured a faith in private markets and an antipathy to government intervention.

In the 1980s and again in the 1990s, the World Bank pushed Malawi to eliminate fertilizer subsidies entirely. Its theory both times was that Malawi’s farmers should shift to growing cash crops for export and use the foreign exchange earnings to import food, according to Jane Harrigan, an economist at the University of London.

In a withering evaluation of the World Bank’s record on African agriculture, the bank’s own internal watchdog concluded in October not only that the removal of subsidies had led to exorbitant fertilizer prices in African countries, but that the bank itself had often failed to recognize that improving Africa’s declining soil quality was essential to lifting food production.

“The donors took away the role of the government and the disasters mounted,” said Jeffrey Sachs, a Columbia University economist who lobbied Britain and the World Bank on behalf of Malawi’s fertilizer program and who has championed the idea that wealthy countries should invest in fertilizer and seed for Africa’s farmers.

Here in Malawi, deep fertilizer subsidies and lesser ones for seed, abetted by good rains, helped farmers produce record-breaking corn harvests in 2006 and 2007, according to government crop estimates. Corn production leapt to 2.7 million metric tons in 2006 and 3.4 million in 2007 from 1.2 million in 2005, the government reported.

“The rest of the world is fed because of the use of good seed and inorganic fertilizer, full stop,” said Stephen Carr, who has lived in Malawi since 1989, when he retired as the World Bank’s principal agriculturalist in sub-Saharan Africa. “This technology has not been used in most of Africa. The only way you can help farmers gain access to it is to give it away free or subsidize it heavily.”

“The government has taken the bull by the horns and done what farmers wanted,” he said. Some economists have questioned whether Malawi’s 2007 bumper harvest should be credited to good rains or subsidies, but an independent evaluation, financed by the United States and Britain, found that the subsidy program accounted for a large share of this year’s increase in corn production.

The harvest also helped the poor by lowering food prices and increasing wages for farm workers. Researchers at Imperial College London and Michigan State University concluded in their preliminary report that a well-run subsidy program in a sensibly managed economy “has the potential to drive growth forward out of the poverty trap in which many Malawians and the Malawian economy are currently caught.”

Farmers interviewed recently in Malawi’s southern and central regions said fertilizer had greatly improved their ability to fill their bellies with nsima, the thick, cornmeal porridge that is Malawi’s staff of life.

In the hamlet of Mthungu, Enelesi Chakhaza, an elderly widow whose husband died of hunger five years ago, boasted that she got two ox-cart-loads of corn this year from her small plot instead of half a cart.

Last year, roughly half the country’s farming families received coupons that entitled them to buy two 110-pound bags of fertilizer, enough to nourish an acre of land, for around $15 — about a third the market price. The government also gave them coupons for enough seed to plant less than half an acre.

What this means for bioenergy
Malawi's progress is just an example of what Biopact has been saying all along: basic, minimal interventions in agriculture have the capacity to unlock an enormous food and fuel potential. Malawi's example can, and should be replicated in the majority of African countries, who have plenty of land and excellent agro-climatic conditions, which should make them huge food and biofuel exporters, instead of remaining miserable food and oil dependent begging bowls.

There is no lack of agricultural or natural resources limiting food and biofuel production for the world's populations and energy markets. Everyone who says this, refuses to look at the science.

Many analyses about the world's sustainable bioenergy potential show that the planet can sustain a very large amount of green fuels. Researchers from the International Energy Agency's Bioenergy Task 40 have estimated it to be around 1400 Exajoules of biofuels and bioenergy by 2050. That is 7 (seven) times more energy than all the oil currently consumed by the entire world.

This potential is explicitly sustainable, meaning all the food, fiber, fodder and forest products needs of growing populations are met, and without deforestation.

The largest potential can be found in Africa, where hundreds of millions of hectares of land are not used, and where agricultural productivity can be vastly improved with relatively simple means (as in the Malawian example).

Now the question is: how to unlock this potential further still? The answers are fairly straightforward: we need investments in basic, modern infrastructures (road, rail, waterways, ports - all of which are absent in Africa); we need investments in critical but ultra-basic agricultural inputs, like fertilizers (see the call made during last year's Africa Fertilizer Summit, or another example of the amazing effects of micro-dosages), herbicides, better seeds, mechanised harvesting, and basic agronomical science (all of this is absent in Africa, but can readily be transferred from high tech agricultural nations); we need basic investments in land, in market access and marketing, in export capacity and in a removal of market barriers. We need a fair global trade regime.

If these transformations are made, and they can be made if we decide to do so, the world can overcome Peak Oil easily, and produce many times more oil than OPEC, sustainably, and in a renewable way - that is, year after year, without depleting the resource.

It is time the so-called 'experts', World Bankers, NGOs and malthusians start to listen to science and reason. Then it will become clear to them that there is no inherent conflict between food and fuel. On the contrary, both food and fuel production can boost each other, especially in poor, oil dependent countries.

Picture: Women in the Dezda district of Malawi pounding corn to make nsima, the thick cornmeal porridge that is the national staple. Malawi's government ignored experts and supplied fertilizer subsidies to farmers, contributing to record-breaking corn harvests.Credit: New York Times.


New York Times: Ending Famine, Simply by Ignoring the Experts - December 2, 2007.

Biopact: IEA study: large potential for biomass trade, under different scenarios - May 13, 2007

Biopact: A look at Africa's biofuels potential - July 30, 2006

Biopact: Harvard Center for International Development: "Biofuels can match oil production" - November 06, 2007

Biopact: Fertilizers boost crop production amongst smallholders in Zimbabwe - April 13, 2007

Biopact: Experts meet to boost African farm yields - June 11, 2006

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The bioeconomy at work: Globetrotter 'bio-car' wins Young Designer of the Year Award

Ever imagined driving in an ultra lightweight, bioplastic car running efficiently on green electricity and taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere by doing so? If designer Harsha Ravi has his way, this will be the future of sustainable automobiles. Winning the conveted Young Designer of the Year award, Harsha Ravi has envisioned a release from dependence on fossil fuels with an emphasis on eco-friendly vehicle technologies and cutting back the weight and bulk of today’s gas-guzzlers. Ravi’s concept uses a carbon-neutral, strong bioplastic body with 12 percent petroleum-based/88 percent corn-based plastic that reduces manufacturing energy 30 percent.

And there’s much more - a zinc-air fuel cell, nano-paper battery, airless tires, nanopaints to absorb solar energy while parked to charge its batteries, and natural fiber woven seat material. This car is lightweight, functional, frugal - the ultimate 'tread lightly' automotive feast for the environment-savvy consumer. If its batteries are charged with bio-electricity - the most efficient and cost-effective form of renewable energy - Ravi's concept becomes a fully carbon-neutral 'bio-car'. What's more, if it were to be powered by carbon negative electricity from biomass, the carbon dioxide of which is captured and sequestered, it could even take emissions out of the atmosphere!

Interestingly, the entire vehicle is 'designed-for-disassembly', a design philosophy based on the increasingly important 'cradle to cradle' concept, which makes designers think of how their products can be broken down and its individual parts reused in similar or totally different products. The bioplastic components conform to the idea as well, because when they are biodegraded in soils, they become nutrients for plants from which new bioplastics can be made - a perfectly closed loop that differs significantly from mere 'recycling'.

Harsha Ravi designed his first car at the age of 13. His childhood penchant for sketching people and landscapes finally earned him accolades when he was awarded the title of the Australian Young Designer of the Year, 2007, in October, for designing a futuristic car for 2017. The award has been instituted by the magazine Wheels in conjunction with the Australian Design Awards. It recognizes and rewards Australia’s outstanding young automotive designers:
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Ravi, a Chennai-born NRI studying in Australia, is a part-time student at Monash University, Melbourne, Australia. He is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Industrial/Product design at the university. His environment-friendly car, Globetrotter, was selected out of 17 entries at this year’s competition. The eight-judge panel included experts like GM Holden design director Antony Stolfo, Australian International Design Awards executive director Brandon Glen, Nielsen Design Associates managing director Sandy McNeil and Newcastle University industrial design head Graham Paver.

This year’s competition marked the 50th anniversary of the Fiat 500 and the designs were required to be 2+1, 500cc and 500 kg. The judging criteria included innovation, intelligence of design, visual impact and form, functionality, visual impact and form, functionality, originality, quality and design for manufacture and maintenance, ergonomics and semantics, safety and environmental considerations:

The award entitles him to a three-month internship of $50,000 at GMs North American design studio in 2008, where he would work with a team of international students on an advanced design project. He would also get a $15,000 trip to a major international motor show in 2008, funded by aXcess of Australia. The other designs that were highly commended at the competition were H500 by Tanveerul Islam and Roll up by Edwin Yi Yuan.

Biocomposites and bioenergy are becoming increasingly attractive to future mobility concepts. Earlier this year researchers at the University of Warwick presented their first environmentally-friendly racing car with tyres made from potatoes and brake pads from cashew nut shells - it runs on biofuels (previous post). Likewise, Canadian universities have teamed up to develop a car that is over 90% biodegradable, light weight and hyper efficient (more here); they will rival an American partnership with very similar goals (previous post).

And if ever we were to make the transition towards hydrogen fuelled vehicles, it is likely that the gas will be produced from biomass, which offers the most efficient and cleanest production pathway. According to a recent comprehensive well-to-wheel analysis of different propulsion concepts, hydrogen made from wood beats all other production methods when it comes to efficiency and cleanliness, including hydrogen from electrolysis of water power by wind energy, nuclear or fossil fuels (see here).

The most optimal use of biomass for transport, however, remains its conversion into electricity in efficient combined heat and power (CHP) or combined heat, power and cooling plants (CCHP), for use in battery electric cars - like Ravi's 'bio-car'.

The Economic Times: NRI Globetrotter design wows global community - November 25, 2007.

Wheels: The Top Tree - Young Designer of the Year Award - November 1, 2007.

Inhabitat: GLOBETROTTER ECO CAR Wins Young Designer of the Year Award - December 4, 2007.

Biopact: Grow it yourself: the biodegradable, plant-based car is here - March 27, 2007

Biopact: Canadian universities receive C$6 million to build plant-based 'BioCars' - March 13, 2007

Biopact: U.S. universities teaming up to build 90% biodegradable car - March 01, 2007

Biopact: Hydrogen out, compressed biogas in - October 01, 2006

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China's biomass power plants boost poor farmers' incomes by 10%

One often hears about the potential of bioenergy to boost the incomes of poor rural households. From China now come the first numbers, proving the case. China's National Bio Energy Co., Ltd (NBE), a subsidiary of the State Grid Corporation of China, has so far established eight biomass plants in five leading grain-producing provinces to cut carbon dioxide emissions in electricity generation amid growing global concerns over greenhouse gas and climate change. According to local government figures, the plants, which burn agricultural waste, have brought substantial increases in incomes to the poor farmers who supply the biofuel.

The bioenergy plants, with a total installed capacity of 200 MW, are expected to burn 1.6 million tons of waste biomass annually. They will generate 1.4 billion kilowatthours hours of electricity, said Cui Mengshan, the manager in charge of planning and business development at National Bio Energy.

Compared with coal-fired power plants, the biomass projects are expected to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 800,000 tons annually.

Boost to incomes
China has been turning biomass into clean energy since last December when the State Grid Corporation launched the first biomass plant in the eastern Shandong Province.

This project, which burns 200,000 tons of stalks annually, has enabled local farmers to make a profit out of what was traditionally considered to be waste. Figures provided by the local government said the Shandong biomass project has brought a total annual income increase of 40 million yuan ($5.33 million) for nearly 50,000 local families. This is around $106 per family, a major increase in a region where the average rural household's annual per capita income (for 2005) was 2300 yuan ($310).

Taking an average of 3.5 members per rural household, and a total family income of $1100 per year, the biomass project thus boosts family incomes by roughly 10%. (See: National Bureau of Statistics of China: Numbers Per Capita Cash Income of Rural Households by Region; data for 2006 here, but not publicly accessible).

In short, this single project indicates that rural households can benefit from participating in the bioenergy sector. Similar projects have been launched over the past year by the NBE in four other grain-producing provinces, including Hebei, Jiangsu, Henan and Heilongjiang.

China's installed capacity of bioenergy electricity is forecast to reach 5.5 GW by 2010, according to the country's 11th Five-Year Plan 2006 to 2010. Under the country's recently announced $265 billion Renewable Energy Strategy, which is aimed at long term investments, the target for biomass power has been set at 30GW by 2020, making it the second-largest renewable after hydropower (table, click to enlarge, and see previous post):
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Thus, by 2010 China's carbon dioxide emissions will be reduced by 22 million tons from the bioenergy projects.

China generates about 660 million tons of stalks from its annual grain production, about 200 million tons of which can be used as a biofuel for clean energy. Traditionally, the stalks are burned in the open air, releasing vast amounts of greenhouse gases and letting off pollutants that cloud the skies, hampering air traffic and reducing the visibility on highways.

The NBE has not less than 30 biomass projects under construction. We earlier presented a short overview of these biomass plants and the feedstocks they utilize, here. The NBE's largest competitor is Dragon Power, a Beijing-based company which plans to raise as much as 15 billion yuan (€1.45/US$2bn) from an initial public offering in Hong Kong to build not less than 100 biomass power plants across the People's Republic (previous post). Another important bioenergy producer is China Enersave, which retrofits existing coal plants and turns them into facilities that generate power from biomass (more here).

Coal-dependent China is set to surpass the United States as the world's largest emitter of heat-trapping carbon dioxide, bringing it under scrutiny as countries gather in Bali to begin negotiating a pact to fight global warming to succeed the Kyoto Protocol.

Xinhua: China turns to clean biomass solution for emission cuts - December 4, 2007.

Biopact: China unveils $265 billion renewable energy plan, aims for 15% renewables by 2020 - September 06, 2007

Biopact: Expert: China's biomass power plants to be profitable in three years - October 30, 2007

Biopact: A closer look at China's biomass power plants - April 19, 2007

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IFPRI report: more free trade needed to tackle rising food prices; small farmers could benefit

Income growth, climate change, high energy prices, globalization, and urbanization are all converging to transform food production, markets, and consumption, according to a new report by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). As a result, global food demand and prices are likely to rise, threatening the livelihoods and nutrition of poor people in developing countries. The report, The World Food Situation: New Driving Forces and Required Actions [*.pdf], was released today at the annual general meeting of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

The IFPRI makes recommendations which it thinks can help overcome the effect of rising food prices to some extent. They include the removal of trade barriers, investments in critical rural infrastructures and more efforts in agricultural science.
Food prices have been steadily decreasing since the Green Revolution, but the days of falling food prices may be over. Surging demand for feed, food, and fuel have recently led to drastic price increases, which are not likely to fall in the foreseeable future, due to low stocks and slow-growing supplies of agricultural outputs. Climate change will also have a negative impact on food production, compounding the challenge of meeting global food demand, and potentially exacerbating hunger and malnutrition among the world's poorest people. - Joachim von Braun, lead author of the report and director general of IFPRI
Economic growth has helped to reduce hunger, particularly when it is equitable, says von Braun. But unfortunately, growth does not always reach the poorest people.

Consumer Demand
Many regions of the developing world, especially China and India, have seen high economic growth in recent years. Together with an expanding urban population, income growth is altering spending and consumer preferences. Global food demand is shifting from grains and other staple crops to processed food and high-value agricultural products, such as vegetables, fruits, meat, and dairy.

Importantly, the IFPRI says, the rising food prices offer opportunities for small farmers, even though it will not be easy for them to tap into the market:
Although many smallholder farmers would like to take advantage of new income-generating opportunities presented by high-value products, there are serious barriers to entering this market, including the capacity to address safety and quality standards and produce large quantities for food processors and retailers.
First generation biofuels
In response to rising oil costs, the production of first generation biofuels as an alternative source of energy is also contributing to dramatic changes in the world food situation. According to the report, increased production of biofuels made from food crops will adversely affect poor people in developing countries by increasing both the price and price volatility of food. Subsidies for such biofuels, which are common, exacerbate the negative impact on poor households, as they implicitly act as a tax on basic food.

Using computer modeling, IFPRI has projected the possible price effects of first generation biofuels for two potential scenarios up to the year 2020 (table, click to enlarge):
  • Under scenario one, which is based on the actual biofuel investment plans of many countries and the assumption that high-potential countries will expand their production of bioenergy, maize prices would increase by 26 percent and oilseed prices would rise by 18 percent.
  • Under scenario two, which assumes that the production of biofuels would expand greatly, to twice the level of scenario one, maize prices would increase by 72 percent and oilseeds by 44 percent.
In both scenarios, rises in crop prices would lead to decreases in food availability and calorie consumption in all regions of the world, with Sub-Saharan Africa suffering the most. As biofuels become increasingly profitable, more land, water, and capital will be diverted to their production, and the world will face more trade-offs between food and fuel.

Agricultural Trade
In addition to biofuels, IFPRI also modeled the impact of supply and demand changes on prices and projects that up to 2015, cereal prices could further increase by 10 to 20 percent, benefiting certain countries and population groups while ill-affecting others. China and almost all African countries, which are net importers of cereals, would suffer from the resulting high prices, but India, a net exporter would benefit. Overall, the majority of poor people, who live in households that are net buyers of food, will be worse off and increased food prices will make it even more difficult for them to eat healthy, well-balanced diets.
A more open global trade in agriculture, however, would generally benefit developing countries. IFPRI research shows that opening up and facilitating market access between industrialized and developing countries would bring significant economic gains, although poverty would not be significantly reduced except in certain contexts.
Climate Change
World agricultural output is projected to decrease significantly due to global warming, and the impact on developing countries will be much more severe than on industrialized nations. Africa is particularly vulnerable to climate change because of its high proportion of low-input, rainfed agriculture, compared with Asia or Latin America. Exposure to rainfall variability also extends to livestock, which mostly depend on range and grasslands that are affected by environmental shocks, such as climate change. To address these risks, investments to improve agricultural productivity need to increase and innovative insurance mechanisms should be explored to compensate rural communities and smallholder farmers when rains fail.

Policy Recommendations
Given the various risks and challenges posed by the rapidly changing world food situation, current market trends and government policies could exacerbate hunger and poverty, especially for the world's poorest people. Policymakers thus must take explicit measures to mitigate the negatives effects on poor households. While tackling long-term challenges is vital, the report recommends that policymakers also take immediate action:
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  1. Developed countries should facilitate flexible responses to drastic changes in food prices by eliminating trade barriers and programs that set aside agriculture resources. A world facing increased food scarcity needs to trade more, not less.
  2. Developing countries should increase investment in rural infrastructure and market institutions to improve access to critical agricultural inputs, including fertilizers, seeds, and credit, which are key to enhancing productivity.
  3. To counteract rising food prices, national and international research systems, including the CGIAR, should be positioned to invest more heavily in agricultural science and technology to increase agricultural production on a global level.
  4. Policymakers should enact social protection measures that focus on early childhood nutrition to mitigate risks associated with reduced food access, particularly for the poorest households.
  5. Because poor people in developing countries are especially vulnerable to the risks associated with climate change, particularly as it relates to food security, policymakers should take agriculture and food issues into account when developing national and international climate change agendas.
As the world food situation is being rapidly defined by new driving forces, including income growth, climate change, and increased production of biofuels, the global community must give renewed attention to the role of agriculture, nutrition, and health in development policy. Above all, policies must target the world's most poor and hungry people, to ensure that they do not get left behind in the wake of overall economic growth and global progress. - von Braun
The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), established in 1971, is a strategic partnership of countries, international and regional organizations and private foundations supporting the work of 15 international agricultural research Centers. In collaboration with national agricultural research systems, civil society and the private sector, the CGIAR fosters sustainable agricultural growth through high-quality science aimed at benefiting the poor through stronger food security, better human nutrition and health, higher incomes and improved management of natural resources.


The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) seeks sustainable solutions for ending hunger and poverty. IFPRI is one of 15 centers supported by the CGIAR.

IFPRI: Joachim von Braun, The World Food Situation: New Driving Forces and Required Actions [*.pdf] - December, 2007.

IFPRI: Fact sheet [*.pdf]- December 4, 2007.

IFPRI: Rising food prices threaten world's poor people - December 4, 2007.

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Canadian government provides $1.5 billion worth of biofuels incentives

The Canadian government has announced program details and eligibility requirements for $1.5 billion in biofuel production incentives available through the 'ecoENERGY for Biofuels' initiative.

The incentives are meant to achieve the goal of getting a five percent renewable content in all gasoline sold in Canada by 2010. Diesel fuel and heating oil will require an average of two percent renewable content by 2012. To meet those requirements, it is estimated that Canada will need three billion litres of renewable fuel a year. Canadian production is currently about 800 million litres per year.
This government strongly supports the development of biofuels, which will lead to new markets for our farmers, help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and create new jobs for our cities and towns. The biofuels production incentive is a perfect example of our government's practical, balanced approach to tackling climate change. - Gerry Ritz, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food
Under the ecoENERGY for Biofuels initiative, which the Prime Minister announced in July 2007, the Government of Canada will invest up to $1.5 billion over nine years in incentives to encourage greater private sector investment in biofuel production. Producers of ethanol and other renewable alternatives to gasoline will be eligible for incentives of up to 10 cents per litre of production; biodiesel producers can receive incentives of up to 20 cents per litre, for the first three years.

The ecoENERGY for Biofuels initiative is one part of Canada's comprehensive biofuels strategy. In addition to regulating renewable content in gasoline and diesel fuel, the strategy also includes a $500-million investment in advancing Canada's leadership in next-generation biofuel technologies. Biofuel production is receiving a further boost through the $200-million ecoAgriculture Biofuels Capital incentive that provides farmers with the opportunity to invest directly in the industry:
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As well, the $20-million Biofuels Opportunities for Producers initiative will assist farmers and rural communities in seizing new market opportunities in the agricultural sector.
We owe it to future generations to take action on climate change. The ecoENERGY for Biofuels initiative shows our commitment to taking real action towards a healthier environment and a stronger economy for all Canadians. - Gary Lunn, Minister of Natural Resources
The biofuel production incentive program runs from April 1, 2008, to March 31, 2017, and is administered by Natural Resources Canada.

The following parameters for the program are under consideration but subject to finalization and approval:
  • Available to eligible facilities constructed before March 31, 2011, subject to program volume limits.
  • Incentives for up to seven years per eligible facility.
  • Program volume limits of 2 billion litres of renewable alternatives to gasoline and 500 million litres of renewable alternatives to diesel, potentially increasing over time, subject to funding availability.
  • Incentive rates of up to $0.10 per litre for renewable alternatives to gasoline and up to $0.20 per litre for renewable alternatives to diesel for the first three years of the program, declining over the following 6 years in the following manner:

  • Incentive rates also based on average industry profitability, determined on an annual or semi-annual basis.
  • A cap of 30 per cent of program volume limits per eligible recipient.
  • A minimum production volume per eligible facility.
  • Certain thresholds for, and reporting of, plant environmental performance such as greenhouse gas emissions, and the quality of fuels produced.
Canadian Government, ecoAction: ecoENERGY for Biofuels, program overview.

Canadian Government, Natural Resources: ecoENERGY for Biofuels.

Canadian Government, Natural Resources: Government of Canada Calls on Industry to Participate in New Biofuels Initiative - December 3, 2007.

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