Bioenergy’s potential for rural development and poverty alleviation

Nov 2011

Most of the world’s poor dwell in rural communities with limited or no access to modern energy services. It is widely acknowledged that the majority of people in developing countries depend on ‘traditional biomass’. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that 2.7 billion people worldwide are without access to clean cooking facilities, 84% of whom are found in rural communities, where they depend on traditional biomass to meet their daily cooking needs (IEA 2011). Even with projected economic growth, technological progress and considerable increase in investments in modern energy services by 2030, the
IEA predicts that, as a result of population growth, about 2.7 billion people will still lack access to clean cooking facilities by 2030 unless significant new policies are put in place now (IEA 2011). It has been reported that modern bioenergy could play a significant role in addressing the global clean cooking facility gap with specific reference to biogas and advanced cookstoves. Additionally, the development of modern bioenergy, derived from sustainably derived biomass resources, is seen by most local governments as an alternative energy option with good potential to alleviate poverty and to contribute to rural
development. A careful balance of policy options, taking into account the different pressures and competition on land and related resources, need to be considered prior to commencing bioenergy activity (UN-Energy, 2010). In this study, GNESD Centres in Africa, Asia and Latin America have analyzed biomass resource potential, energy policies promoting the deployment of bioenergy and how bionenergy can be effectively employed in bringing about rural development and poverty alleviation in eighteen countries across the globe. Findings from the study showed some interesting developments and success stories in the application of bioenergy for socio-economic improvements in rural communities in emerging economies and developing countries. It was observed that a comprehensive strategy that targets the use of environmentally and socially benign bioenergy (in an integrated manner with other development activities) could be essential in bringing about rural socio-economic development. The study suggests policy recommendations for consideration by decision-makers in promoting the use of bioenergy in developing countries and emerging economies.

By: GNESD Secretariat

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