Bioenergy boosts rural development in poor nations, UN-backed study finds

8 April 2009

Bioenergy production reaps benefits for rural communities in poor countries, according to a new United Nations-backed report that examined projects in one dozen countries spanning the globe.

Although the bioenergy debate has centered on liquid fuels used for transport, over 80 per cent of bioenergy used involves other sources, mainly wood, that are used for household cooking and heating in the world’s poorest areas, the study – published jointly by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) – said.

Concern over the impact of transporting the biofuels on the environment, water resources and food security has obscured bioenergy’s many positive benefits for poor people in rural areas.

Among the benefits of bioenergy cited by the study are increased natural resource efficiency because energy can be created from waste that would otherwise be burned or left to rot and the creation of useful by-products such as cheap fertilizer.

In the 15 ‘start-up’ bioenergy projects in 12 countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia assessed by the report, “the local community benefited from improved energy access both for domestic and business use,” said Oliver Dubois, a bioenergy expert in FAO’s Natural Resources Department.

He said that “virtuous cycles” have developed where people have access to the energy needed for development without funds flowing out of communities or depleting local natural resources.


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