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Small-Scale Bioenergy Initiatives

15 case studies in 12 countries show the promise of local clean energy

Food and Agriculture Organization, Policy Innovation Systems for Clean Energy Security | January 2009



This report is based on a series of 15 international case studies conducted between September and November 2008 under a joint initiative of FAO and the PISCES Energy Research Programme Consortium funded by DFID. The case studies focused on developing an improved understanding of the linkages between Livelihoods and Small-Scale Bioenergy Initiatives.

The study was developed in consultation with the PISCES Consortium Advisory Group (CAG). This is made up of leading international participants in the field of energy and development, including members from the IEA, UNEP, ENERGIA, DFID and FAO, as well as policymakers and research organisations in the PISCES target countries of India, Kenya, Sri Lanka, and Tanzania.

The focus of the study was on the impacts that different types of local level Bioenergy initiatives can have on Rural Livelihoods in different contexts in the developing world. Livelihoods are understood as the enhancement of the full range of natural, financial, human, social and physical capitals on a sustainable ongoing basis.

The cases were selected from 12 countries in six regions of Latin America, Africa and Asia, and brief overviews of each case are provided in Chapter 3. They were selected to highlight the use of a range of Bioenergy resources, including natural Bioresources; Bioresidues from existing agricultural, forestry or industrial activities; and purpose grown energy crops, both liquid and solid, commonly known as Biofuels.

The initiatives match these resources to a range of energy needs including cooking, mobility, productive uses and electricity for lighting and communication—thereby highlighting the scope of Bioenergy applications. The approach taken also considers the non-energy by-products of production processes where these form, or could form, a significant added benefit in terms of livelihoods, revenues and efficiency.

The case study approach has at its heart a Market Systems perspective, and in particular the use of Market Mapping. This approach enables the identification and illustration of the main Market Actors as well as the crucial Supporting Services and Enabling Environment which contribute to the success or failure of initiatives.

Taking the market map for each initiative as the basis, the project then applied the "4Rs" Framework of Relationships, Rights, Responsibilities and Revenues to the actors in the system. This approach aims to better understand the power dynamics of each case in terms of key issues such as risk, vulnerability, governance and equity. Following this analysis, the impacts of each initiative on the Livelihoods Assets of the actors in the chain, and the sustainability of these impacts, were assessed and preliminary conclusions drawn.

Tools used in the research included field visits, surveys, existing literature, interviews and workshops, as well as the previous experience of researchers and contributors. In addition to the initiative leaders, consultees typically included participants, actors and beneficiaries. Details of the methodologies and tools used are provided in Chapter 2.

It is hoped that these will inform and stimulate debate about the role of small-scale bioenergy projects in contributing to rural livelihoods. The preliminary lessons are summarised as follows:

  • Natural resource efficiency is possible in Small-Scale Bioenergy initiatives
  • Local and productive energy end-uses develop virtuous circles
  • Where fossil energy prices dominate, partial insulation is an option
  • Longer term planning and regulation has a crucial role if Small-Scale Bioenergy projects are to succeed
  • Flexibility and diversity can also reduce producer risk
  • Collaboration in the market chain is key at start up
  • Long local market chains spread out the benefits
  • Moving Bioenergy resources up the energy ladder adds value
  • Any new activity raising demand will raise prices, even those for wastes
  • Cases do not appear to show local staple food security to be affected
  • Small-Scale Bioenergy initiatives can offer new choices in rural communities

External Link: Small-Scale Bioenergy Initiatives [PDF]

Read More: Agriculture, Aid, Development, Energy, Environment, Poverty, Sustainability, Brazil, Ethiopia, Guatemala, India, Kenya, Mali, Peru, Senegal, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, Vietnam, Africa, Americas, Asia

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