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UN FAO Report Addresses Food-Energy Security

February 22, 2011

In a flagship report, the Food and Agriculture Organisation proposes conceptual approaches to address food/energy vulnerability.  It identifies issues and responses to integrate and intensify food and energy production within ‘Integrated Food Energy Systems’.

The report, ‘Making Food Energy Systems Work for People and Climate’ was released last week.

Three billion people rely on unsustainable biomass-based energy sources to meet basic energy needs for cooking and heating, and 1.6 billion people lack access to electricity.

The report identifies two types of IFES:

  • Type 1 IFES are characterized through the production of feedstock for food and for energy on the same land, through multiple-cropping patterns or agroforestry systems.
  • Type 2 IFES seek to maximize synergies between food crops, livestock, fish production and sources of renewable energy.  This is achieved by the adoption of agro-industrial technology (such as gasification or anaerobic digestion) that allows maximum utilization of all by-products, and encourages recycling and economic utilization of residues.

Solutions to food security and rural energy insecurity are identified as being agricultural; institutional; and policy reform – incorporating financial; technological; and capacity development options.

The report identifies that there are significant benefits also from a greenhouse gas abatement perspective through avoided methane emissions, avoided fossil-fuel use, and carbon sequestration of an integrated sustainable approach.  It assesses technology solution options and costs, drawing on an extensive body of work on the subject.

The FAO contributes meaningfully to address food and energy security concerns, identified in the annual WEF global risks report as a key theme.  Food and energy vulnerability has been gaining prominence in recent months through evidence of the social and political malaise (partially) induced through food and energy price inflation – which will likely be exacerbated in the absence of coordinated policy responses such as those advocated by the FAO.

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