Bio fuels for Rural Food and Livelihood Security
The bulk of rural energy consumption in Asia is by households of small and marginal landholders, tenants or landless. Farming and rural industries account for less than 20 percent of all rural energy usage in the region. Between 80 to 90 percent of Asia’s rural household energy needs are met by wood fuels and crop residues. About one billion rural people in the region depend solely on traditional energy sources. The collection of biomass – mainly fuel wood – which is the main source of rural household energy, is primarily the responsibility of women and girls. This is a big burden on their time, energy and health, thereby depriving them of more economically productive work opportunities.
The availability of sustainable and low-cost energy sources can vitalize agricultural productivity and help create multiple rural non-farm livelihood opportunities based on small and medium-scale rural enterprise development. Small-scale rural industries currently account for less than 10 percent of total rural energy demand. The inadequacy of the prevailing top-down, supply-side approach to rural energy development has highlighted the need for decentralized, stand-alone and renewable energy sources.
Agricultural and rural cooperatives can play a useful role in improving access to affordable and sustainable bio energy in remote rural areas to boost farm productivity and other livelihood options. Being highly labour-intensive, bio fuel production offers opportunities for the involvement of small-scale rural producers’ groups and cooperatives in small-scale bio energy production and its use at local level. Bio fuel feedstock can be produced by small and marginal landholders and sold for centralised processing. The more involved farmers are in production, processing and use of bio fuels, the more likely they are to share the benefits.
Small and medium-sized enterprises can play a central role in developing bio fuel markets in rural areas. Clusters of such enterprises can link up with large-scale agro-industrial chains. Farmer cooperatives can link small-scale bio fuel feedstock producers with large-scale bio fuel businesses. In Brazil and USA, farmer cooperatives ensure gains to small farmers from large corporations dominating the bio fuel industry. India’s National Biodiesel Mission aims to involve self-help groups and cooperatives of rural poor in the cultivation of jatropha plantation on degraded lands and marketing the jatropha seed for processing into biodiesel.
FAO-NEDAC Regional workshop on “Role of agricultural cooperatives in bio fuel development at community level for rural food and livelihood security”; Pattaya, Thailand (Download Report and Background Reader)