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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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Friday, October 17, 2008

UN Foundation report: Bioenergy can lift West-Africa out of poverty

A very important report released by the United Nations Foundation, the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) and the Energy and Security Group finds that bioenergy can provide significant economic and environmental opportunities for rural areas in West Africa, where 70% of the region's poor make a living. The report, "Sustainable Bioenergy in UEMOA Member Countries", released at FAO Headquarters in Rome, finds that donor and host country investments in bioenergy can reduce the exposure of West African countries to high food and oil prices and open up new economic opportunities in clean energy development.

Biomass can also expand agricultural production across the UEMOA (the Economic and Monetary Union of West Africa) nations of Benin, Burkina-Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo (map, click to enlarge) which have been hit hard by the food crisis and rising oil prices. Sound bioenergy production policies can help drive a coordinated approach to poverty reduction and reduce the impact of climate change on these already vulnerable areas.
This report takes on the twin challenges of energy and agriculture and explores how bioenergy crops and modern uses of biomass in rural areas of West Africa could play a role in alleviating poverty while protecting food production. It is vital that policies and technologies are developed and implemented to better use agricultural and forest residues. If used correctly, these energy feedstocks hold great potential for efficient and affordable locally-produced fuels and this can be done in a sustainable and responsible way that ensures the world’s most vulnerable populations have access to clean fuels and are not put at further risk. - Melinda Kimble, Senior Vice President with the UN Foundation.

Commissioned by UEMOA and the Rural Hub for Western and Central Africa, a key regional NGO promoting rural poverty alleviation, the report finds that these oil-import dependent countries possess enough arable land (table 1, click to enlarge) and forests to cultivate sufficient foodstocks and harvest biomass to produce expanded amounts of bioenergy. But less than two percent of these arable acres are irrigated, leaving them vulnerable to erratic weather patterns. The report concludes that greater investment in irrigation, as well as fertilizer and farm equipment are all needed if agricultural yields are to increase in line with a growing population.

Better yields are essential in order to improve standards of living in UEMOA countries, since roughly 70% of the population depends on agricultural or forestry-related jobs (table 2, click to enlarge). Conversely, only seven percent of the rural population has access to electricity, greatly limiting economic growth, the report finds.
Access to affordable energy is a critical factor in the development of rural communities, and one that is often forgotten. Bioenergy offers African farmers a unique opportunity to generate the energy that they need to grow food crops and improve agriculture productivity. With the right public policies in place and the blueprint for action included in the report, UEMOA countries can harness that potential and win the fight against both rural poverty and climate change. - Dr. Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, Executive Director of the Rural Hub
According to the report, key factors to guide sustainable bioenergy include improving agriculture and forest productivity, and protecting watersheds, which would also put governments in a better position to fight against climate change and cope with inevitable impacts. Traditional wood biomass production – 73% of primary energy used in the region – must be adapted to create more efficient and cleaner fuel.

Bioenergy can be transformative for the region – greatly expanding electricity and energy access, creating more jobs and better income in rural communities and growth across national and regional economies:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Innovative crop management, farmer training, and consistent investment are needed to improve agriculture productivity in this region. Land use, protection of small producers, infrastructure improvement, data collection, and women’s roles are some of the critical points which must be taken into account by governments in order to secure sustainability, the report found.
Achieving the Millenium Development Goals demands well-integrated agricultural and energy policies if progress is to be sustained. It is my hope that this report provides a new view of the potential of agriculture to help millions of Africans get out of the dark and out of poverty. - Kandeh K. Yumkella, Director-General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)
The United Nations Foundation is an advocate for the UN and a platform for connecting people, ideas and capital to help the United Nations solve global problems. We build partnerships, grow constituencies, mobilize resources and advocate policy changes to support the UN’s work for individual and global progress. The UN Foundation’s work — focused on select global problems — is decreasing child mortality, improving disaster relief, protecting diverse cultures and environments, creating a clean energy future, empowering women and girls, and improving U.S.-UN relations. The UN Foundation is a public charity.

The International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) was established in Geneva in September 1996 to contribute to a better understanding of development and environment concerns in the context of international trade. As an independent non-profit and non-governmental organisation, ICTSD engages a broad range of actors in ongoing dialogue about trade and sustainable development. With a wide network of governmental, non-governmental and inter-governmental partners, ICTSD plays a unique systemic role as a provider of original, non-partisan reporting and facilitation services at the intersection of international trade and sustainable development.

The Rural Hub for Western and Central Africa is a non-governmental organization whose goal is to assist West and Central African stakeholders (States, Inter-governmental Organisations, Civil Society Organisations and Development Partners) to promote coherence in rural development programmes worldwide.


UN Foundation: Sustainable Bioenergy Development in UEMOA Member Countries - October 2008 [separate chapters in *.pdf format - full report in one *.pdf file, here].


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think more biogas plants should be installed to help with the human and agricultural waste in the areas where drinking water is compromised.

6:33 PM  

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