‘Biomass has enormous potential’

Without energy-input, the productivity of the rural poor cannot be improved, and the Millennium goals will not be achieved. This is what the Economic and Monetary Union of Western African Countries (Uemoa) says in a new report.
The member-states of this UN-institution are Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo. In Western Africa 70% of the population lives in rural areas, most of whom are poor farmers. The Sustainable Bioenergy Development report focuses on the potential of biomass from the region as an important source of energy, and thus of development. Eighty percent of energy resources come from fossil fuels (charcoal, gas and petrol). But in Africa, Asia and Latin America, the poorest people often depend on biomass.
In the Uemoa countries, 73% of the energy consumption comes from biomass, whereas only 4% comes from electricity. Even in countries that have petrol, the poor are often energy-poor. The high oil-prices, together with the high food-prices, only worsen the problem for the poorest. In the growing gap between energy-poor and energy-rich segments of the population, biomass that is won locally from several types of wood and left-over current from agriculture can offer a tremendous potential. The increasing population and uncontrolled deforestation to gain more living area, the chopping of wood for cooking, and unsustainable agricultural practices nowadays cause a growing ecological disaster.
‘A sustainable management of all this nature is vital’, says the report. ‘ But at the same time, such an approach can also bring economic profit. A sustainable extraction of biomass can counter deforestation and soil erosion, make energy locally and decentralized available for the poor, at the same time give them a better income from agriculture, and slow down global warming.’ According to the report, the preconditions for this are taking care of food security, safe-keeping the environment and the eco-systems, and getting the local farmers access to the land so that they can get an economical profit from this new development.
Download the full report for free on www.unfoundation.org

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