Debate on biofuels takes centre stage at Rome Tre University

Thursday, November 22, 2012
[PHOTO: UNifeed] 
Shimba Hills, Kenya: As the world, and the aviation industry, turns its attention towards more sustainable fuel sources, the debate on how to produce biofuels in ways that do not conflict with food security, takes centre stage at a workshop Thursday (22 November) at the Rome Tre University.

The event, supported by Boeing, will discuss how to develop aviation biofuels in a way that benefits poor farmers.

The production of biofuels could potentially create a new and exciting market for poor, rural farmers in developing countries. There are biofuel crops, like jatropha, that can grow in marginal areas which could provide an income for farmers from otherwise unproductive land. And there are also food crops, like cassava, that can be used for biofuel that could benefit from broader markets.

For the aviation industry, biofuels have the potential to reduce CO2 emissions and cut its fuel costs. But the UN's International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), which is participating in the workshop counsels caution. According to IFAD's Chief Development Strategist Carlos Seré, a lot more research needs to be done to ensure that biofuel production does not compete with crop production.

Chief Development Strategist of IFAD, Carlos Seré, said, "Biofuels largely are an alternative land use and thus it is going to be competing with crop production for food security. This is a major concern the world has and this is not completely out of the realm of reality. Because the first generation biofuels – basically cereals, maize, corn from the US largely, and oil crops in Europe have certainly affected the markets. And given what we have just gone through with these price hikes etcetera, there is a lot of nervousness around this and we share that concern. We think that we need to understand a lot better what are linkages between the biofuels market and the food market and the obviously the resources they are competing for."

As the only United Nations agency dedicated to eradicating rural poverty, Seré said IFAD will represent the interests of smallholder farmers.

"This is a very complex process that involves food security, land use, land ownership, employment, investment. There's a lot of stakeholders and in this type of complex decisions you need to have them all on board. A particularly important part of the equation is having the farmers themselves involved. They are the ones who are going to be particularly affected by these changes." he added.

Speakers at the workshop "Sustainable Pro-poor Development of Aviation Biofuels" include Corrado Clini, Minister for the Environment, Land and Sea, Italy; Carlos Seré, IFAD Chief Strategist; Rinaldo Petrignani, President of Boeing Italy; Antonio de Palmas, President, EU & NATO, Boeing; and leaders from the Biomass Research Centre, Enalg, Solena and ENI. -UNifeed
Next Post »