Study Shows Bioenergy Benefits for Rural Poor
In the article “Study shows bioenergy benefits for rural poor”, the author provided us with a four possible benefits of using bioenergy and its impact on rural communities which were obtained from a study entitled “Small-Scale Bioenergy Initiatives: Brief Description and Preliminary Lessons on Livelihood Impacts from Case Studies in Latin America, Asia and Africa.” These benefits included:
(i) an increase in natural resource efficiency as energy can be created from waste that would otherwise be burnt or left to rot is put to use,
(ii) the creation of useful by-products such as affordable fertilizer from biogas production,
(iii)the possibility of simultaneously producing food and fuel through intercropping and
(iv) the creation of new financial capital with growth cycles by making use of marginal land.
Many rural communities in developing countries have benefited from the reuse of waste. For example, Brazil uses sugarcane bagasse as a feedstock to produce electricity in communities. In a case study, it showed that Brazil’s biomass power capacity has been steadily increasing since 2010. By this initiative, not only does Brazil grow sugarcane for the refinery of sugar, but they use its by-product (bagasse) as a means of feed for the sugar mills. This creates a wider availability of jobs for farmers to plant sugarcane and increase their income by making use of marginal land can sell their sugarcane bagasse to biomass power plants.
In Mali, the Garalo village electrification project supported by the Dutch government (ECN) provides electricity to 250 subscribers, private households, and community facilities and to 42 streetlights. Now, students in these rural areas and developing countries can now read at night resulting in considerable educational progress. The Jatropha cooperative (a village electricity committee represents the population in energy questions and in the construction of a powerhouse and offices) is a local organization structure which developed from the Garalo village electrification initiative.
Most rural communities in developing countries have limited or no access to modern energy services. The over dependence on wood fuel to meet cooking and heating needs is a primary driver for deforestation in impoverished communities. The use of biomass indeed has its negative effects on the environment although it is necessary for society, it affects the sustainability of countries. Ineffective cooking, heating devices, and lighting emit significant levels of pollutant smoke which is disadvantageous again to the environment and can cause chronic illness and other health problems; affecting persons’ livelihoods. This can result from the hazardous compounds emitted from the burning of wood for various uses such as firewood for cooking. This can lead to deaths of millions of people by the year 2030 which is equivalent to 4000 deaths a day due to improper use of biomass. For this reason, the benefits of using bioenergy to provide clean and efficient services to the rural poor cannot be over-emphasized. Hence, it is imperative that extension services be offered to educate small farmers living in rural poor areas about practicing proper farming techniques to ensure for sustainable usage of biofuels where cooking methods and equipment is involved.
The SLEG (Sustainability, Livelihood, Equity, Governance) concept plays a central role in assessing this article in that, it provides and understanding of sustainable development as it applies to the processing, production, consumption, and disposal of biofuels to ensure it is safe and environmentally friendly and will not affect the sustainability or livelihoods of persons living in rural poor areas. Where equity is involved, actors of Governance (Government, NGOs and influential leaders) must ensure that all persons (small farmers, poor families, etc.) at all times have access to the use of biofuels and opportunities involved such as in employment (for both men and women) as well as the sharing of marginal lands for this initiative.
Although there are growing concerns regarding the environmental sustainability issues of bioenergy expansion or other uses to the growing of crops, these concerns provide an opportunity for bioenergy to be done correctly, thereby helping to create new investments into the agricultural sector with the potential to provide market and employment opportunities for millions of people worldwide who depend on agriculture including the rural poor, ultimately increasing financial capital. I agree that bioenergy can benefit persons in rural poor areas but, not at the expense of the environment which is why there needs to be a proper extension service to teach small farmers of sustainable farming techniques.