FAO unveils new bioenergy assessment tool, weighs impact on food security

By | 12 February 2008

Rome, 8 February 2008 – A decision-support tool developed by FAO will help ensure that countries can enter the rapidly growing field of bioenergy industry to produce benefits for the poor without jeopardizing their food security.

The tool, an “analytical framework” designed by a team of economists from FAO, Utrecht University’s Copernicus Institute and Darmstadt’s Oeko-Institut, was unveiled at a two-day experts’ meeting of FAO’s Bioenergy and Food Security (BEFS) project. The three-year project, funded by Germany, is aimed at making sure that bioenergy does not impair global food security.

The analytical framework allows governments interested in entering the bioenergy sector to calculate the effect of their policy decisions on the food security of their populations. Bioenergy can affect food prices and rural incomes and thus has important implications – both positive and negative — for food security.

Positive outcomes

Applying the analytical framework will enable national policy makers to minimize negative consequences while maximizing positive outcomes.

A prerequisite for running the framework is the establishment of a bioenergy development scenario, a process in which FAO helps government clearly define their bioenergy policy options and the various possible strategies to achieve those options.

The analytical framework then makes it possible, through five steps, to assess: technical biomass potential; biomass production costs; the economic bioenergy potential; macro-economic consequences; national and household-level impact and consequences on food security.

Vulnerable households

Analysis of the results will make it possible to determine actual bioenergy potential and which households are most vulnerable and thus at risk of food insecurity.

Existing mathematical modelling tools such as Quickscan, which calculates global bioenergy potential to 2050, and FAO’s COSIMO, which models the agricultural sector in a large number of developing countries, will be used.

The framework will be field-tested in three countries – Peru, Thailand and Tanzania – before the analytical framework methodology is made available to the international community at large.

Kyoto II

Alexander Müller, FAO Assistant Director-General for natural resources and the environment, said that FAO would make every effort to ensure that food security issues are on the table when a successor to the present Kyoto Protocol is negotiated. Although climate change could reduce yields from the main crops in sub-Saharan Africa by up to 40 percent in the next 25 years, food security is not part of the negotiations road map adopted at last December’s UN Conference in Bali, Mr Müller noted.

“The challenge will be huge for sub-Saharan Africa,” Mr Muller said. According to experts, however, the development of the bioenergy sector in Africa could help mitigate the effects of climate change there.

FAO is organizing a High Level Conference on World Food Security and the Challenges of Climate Change and Bioenergy in Rome from 3 to 5 June.

Online news from FAO: http://www.fao.org/newsroom/

FAO South Africa Contact:
Nala Ramohlokoane
Email: mramohlokoane at un.org.za
Tel: +27 12 354 8536
Fax: +27 12 354 8531

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