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FAO/UNEP/UN-Energy Bioenergy Decision Support Tool -
MODULE 7: Deployment and Good Practices
Integrated Food Energy Systems (IFES) are designed to integrate,
intensify, and thus increase the simultaneous production of food
and energy. The essential features of IFES include:
• using technology mix to provide a minimum cost alternative
to produce food and energy;
• meeting energy needs not only for agriculture, but also for
other sectors, end-uses and social needs (e.g. domestic,
commercial, industrial);
• maximizing utilization of available biomass resources with
minimum environmental impact;
• benefting all social groups in a community;
increasing food productivity;
• generating additional income and employment opportunities,
• minimum maintenance requirements to ease community
participation in management.
An IFES can be confgured based on two basic models: (1)
physical coexistence, generally on the same land, or (2) as a
‘closed-loop system,’ that aims to optimally use synergies in the
inputs and outputs from activities in different sectors: agricultural
crops, forestry, fsheries, livestock production and associated
natural resources. The Type 1 systems can also combine activities
across different sectors (e.g. agro-forestry) or they might employ
mixtures of annual and perennial crops (FAO, 2011). The two
types of systems are briefy reviewed below and some examples
are provided, followed by discussion on various confgurations,
use of by-products and the barriers faced in implementing IFES.
In this model, production of food and fuel feedstock is combined
on the same land. A common example practice in this category
is the combination of jatropha with nitrogen-fxing crops such as
beans. Another example is the agro-pastoral system proposed by
a public-private consortium in Congo-Brazzaville, which integrates
food crops between rows of oil palm trees in savannas, during
the frst years of the plantation, and switching to livestock grazing
under the shade of the plantation at a later stage (Dubois, 2010).
Other integrated systems of this type have additional linkages,
possibly to other resource bases, such as fsheries, or to agri-
cultural uses in the form of fertiliser. The options for bioenergy
might also include different carriers—liquid, solid and gaseous—
depending on feedstocks and applications.
In ‘closed-loop’ systems, the by-products of one system are
transformed into the feedstocks for the other. In this case, the
major goal of IFES is to maximize synergies between food crops,
livestock, fsh production and sources of renewable energy (e.g.
biodigestion of by-products or wastes). This is achieved by adop-
tion of agro-industrial technology that allows maximum utilization
of by-products, diversifcation of raw materials, waste production
on a smaller scale, and encouraging recycling and economic
utilization of residues, for harmonization of energy and food
production. An integrated system using sweet sorghum in China
illustrates the possibilities for multiple uses and products, since
sorghum has fbre, grain, and sugar-bearing components that can
each serve different purposes (Box 10).
Box 9: China Green Village Credit (GVC)
Green Village Credit (GVC) explores a new fnancing approach to promote economic development and environmental protection in
remote mountainous communities and is part of UNEP’s China Rural Energy Enterprises Development (CREED) project in China’s
Yunnan province and surrounding areas. Supported by the United Nations Foundation (UNF), CREED offers enterprise development
services combined with start- up fnancing as well as support for consumer credit and income-generation loans. Among the different
renewable rural energy schemes promoted is an IFES concerning biogas digesters integrated with a greenhouse for raising livestock
or growing vegetables.
The Nature Conservancy (TNC), China Program is responsible for the consumer credit and income generation component through
GVC in the northwest part of Yunnan Province, China. GVC provides local villagers with two types of credit: household credit to
purchase higher quality sustainable energy systems (energy effcient and renewable energy systems); and a loan for activities that can
generate income using the new and improved energy services, such as vegetable and cash-crop plantations, animal husbandry, tour-
ism services and other activities that can generate suffcient fnancial returns. By stimulating new income-generating activities, GVC is
designed to help local communities to purchase better energy services rather than depending on grants or subsidies (UNEP, 2007).
In addition to environmental benefts, GVC provides social benefts such as enhancing local business capacity, improving local liveli-
hoods, and improving indoor air quality. Based on their larger multi-year Alternative Energy Program, TNC works in partnership with:
local government agencies (e.g. forestry, environmental protection, health, rural energy);
• rural fnancial institutions, such as rural credit cooperatives (RCC);
• rural energy enterprises; and
local NGOs.
The project is implemented in close cooperation with community-based GVC Associations registered at the local civil affairs bureaus
as specialized rural economic entities.