By: VANESSA LUTCHMAN 808012316
Bio-energy is energy derived from biological sources (biomass). Biomass is an organic material which has stored sunlight in the form of chemical energy. This includes materials from plants, animals, wood, waste, manure, (hydrogen) gas, and alcohol fuels; to name a few. Wood is the most common biomass source. For thousands of years it has been used for cooking and heating. Bio-energy is a renewable energy source that can provide heat, make fuels and generate electricity. The rapidly changing world we live in requires a significant amount of fuel to power all its technologies and lifestyles. As such energy and environmental policies have been implemented in an attempt to prolong our natural resources. This, combined with several other factors, suggest that bio-energy sector can be affected by issues related to Sustainability, Livelihood, Education and Governance (SLEG).
A report published by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the UK’s Department of International Development on April 8, 2009 suggest that small scale biomass and other bio-energy projects can play a significant role in rural and local community development in poor countries. This study was conducted in 15 different “start-up” bio-energy projects from 12 countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia. Some of the benefits highlighted includes:
- An increase in the efficiency of natural resources since waste products that would have been burnt or left to rot can be put to use to produce energy.
- Fertilizers as a by-product from bio-gas production.
- The use of intercropping to possibly produce food and fuel at the same time.
- The generation of new capital with growth cycles by making use of marginal land.
As with everything there are some concerns associated with bio-energy production by rural poor. As previously mentioned wood is the most well-known biomass form and is used extensively in rural communities throughout the world as a source of heat and for cooking. In some parts of Africa wood fuel accounts for up to 90% of energy consumption. This has led to concerns over deforestation. Several studies have however suggested that fuel wood is not a driver for large scale deforestation but can still contribute to forest degradation and have negative impacts on forest health and bio-diversity.
Other major concerns are centralized around governance. Most communities are poor because of a lack of proper governance and political crisis. In order to ensure these bio-fuel and bio-energy projects exhibit long term benefits, there must not only be sufficient funding but also proper management of all the necessary components. The people have to be educated on the uses and benefits of bio-energy since to numerous rural villagers this is a new, unfamiliar field that may be greeted with some resistance.
Once these and other hurdles are overcome bio-energy can be a very promising avenue for the enrichment of the lives of many less fortunate individuals.