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United Nations Urges Use of Bioenergy to Ease Poverty in Developing Countries
2 June 2004

With wood, charcoal and fuel-producing crops emerging as environmentally friendly and cost-effective sources of energy, especially for developing countries, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today called for the urgent inclusion of so-called bioenergy into agricultural and forestry programmes.

"Countries need to move towards more sustainable energy systems based on energy sources such as biomass, solar and wind energies," senior FAO energy coordinator Gustavo Best told four-day International Conference on Renewable Energies in Bonn, Germany. "The production and use of bioenergy also contributes to poverty alleviation and food security. It can reduce land degradation and helps to mitigate climate change," he added.

Bioenergy includes fuelwood and charcoal, energy crops such as sugar cane, sweet sorghum and rapeseed as well as agricultural and forestry residues, to produce heat, ethanol, biodiesel, bioelectricity or biogas. It offers great opportunities for developing countries in creating income and labour opportunities.

Sustainable bioenergy systems should be promoted to prevent deforestation, deterioration of watersheds, and loss of soil fertility and biodiversity, FAO said. Bioenergy can contribute to diversify agricultural and forestry production. Ethanol from sugar, sorghum and cassava or biodiesel from rapeseed and other energy crops can replace considerable amounts of fossil fuels.

Bioenergy in general and wood energy in particular are the dominant sources for about half of the world's population, often the poorest of the poor who use it mainly for cooking and lack access to other sources such as electricity or fuel, which would allow them to generate income and improve their living conditions.

Currently, energy from biomass accounts for 15 per cent of energy consumed worldwide and for up to 90 percent in some developing countries.

FAO is currently working with the Shenyang Agr China in developing new sweet sorghum varieties and technologies to produce ethanol to substitute for petrol. Sweet sorghum has the advantage of producing both animal feed and sugars for energy conversion. The agency also has energy projects in Nepal and Brazil.

For more details go to UN News Centre at http://www.un.org/news

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