Bioenergy Can Benefit The Rural Poor

Bioenergy, when produced on a small-scale in local communities, can play a significant role in rural development in poor countries, is the headline message in a new report jointly published by FAO and the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID).

The study, “Small Scale Bioenergy Initiatives: Brief Description and Preliminary Lessons on Livelihood Impacts from Case Studies in Latin America, Asia and Africa,” covers 15 different “start-up” bioenergy projects from 12 countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia, involving a diverse array of technologies. At first glance the 142 pages may look somewhat in(bio)digestible, but a glance at the appendices shows where the interest is. Below is a list of the projects included:

  • Mali Jatropha ElectrificationUT
  • Senegal Chardust Briquettes
  • Senegal Typha Charcoal
  • Tanzania Sisal Biogas
  • Tanzania Palm Oil
  • Kenya Afforestation Charcoal
  • Ethiopia Ethanol Stoves
  • India Jatropha Electrification
  • Biodiesel based Water pumping program in rural Tribal villages of Orissa
  • Sri Lanka Spice Drying
  • Brazil Ethanol Micro-distilleries
  • Guatemala Jatropha Biodiesel
  • Peru Veg-Oil Recycling
  • Thailand Jatropha Co-operative
  • Vietnam Farm Biogas

The palm oil project is of particular interest, given WEKFAR’s interest in palm oil in neighbouring Kenya. The report can be downloaded here: Small Scale Bioenergy Initiatives and members of the WEKFAR team can be contacted from the About Us page here.

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Climate Change in Africa – predicting and adapting

Dr. Kai Sonder, GIS (Geographic Information Systems) expert at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, IITA in Ibadan, Nigeria, is using information relayed by satellites stationed high above the earth, as well as outputs from global climate models, to find answers to Africa’s most pressing problems. Monitoring the trends in rainfall and temperature in different regions of Africa, Sonder is part of a team of scientists that is recommending new farming practices to ensure food security across the continent.

Climate variability, rather than climate change, is how Kai Sonder prefers to describe the current situation in Africa. But he confirms that rainfall is becoming more unpredictable. “Global warming is expected to cause less rainfall in some areas and more of it in others. In Zimbabwe, Malawi and parts of Mozambique, for example, people have a high dependency on maize. But droughts are becoming more frequent and causing heavy losses.”

IITA’s work should allow policymakers to recommend changes in current farming practices. For Sonder, this is all necessary work if millions of people are to be prepared for the future, particularly as he emphasises that, “many areas of Africa are already suffering under adverse effects of what climate change is predicted to bring for larger areas.” However, in the shorter term, Sonder believes farmers need reliable information about each coming season, since this ought to determine which crops to plant and when. The use of mobile phones to communicate market prices in Kenya and Uganda offers a model for how such information might be spread widely and quickly.

Excerpted from an article at New Agriculturalist written by Oluyinka Alawode and Adeleke O’Adeyemi. Read full article here.