FAO Regional Office for Africa

Zambia tackles challenges related to biomass energy

New TCP to support development of sustainable energy sector

30th October 2018, Lusaka: Current statistics indicate that 77 percent of Zambia’s primary energy relies on traditional biomass, with only 4.4 percent of the rural population having access to electricity. This is compounded by the fact that 47.8 percent of the population in Zambia is undernourished and 60.5 percent lives below the national povertyline.

Conscious of these issues and the fact that managing biomass energy in Zambia is a key challenge, the Government has now given high priority to developing a sustainable biomass energy strategy. However, while Zambia has broad policy goals in place, and targets have been set to tackle access to modern energy, there seems to be a lack of evidence and knowledge to define which bioenergy pathways can contribute sustainably to the envisaged targets.

To address these challenges, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Government of the Republic of Zambia (GRZ) through the Ministry of Energy have jointly launched and held the first inception workshop for the Technical Cooperation Project (TCP) on Bioenergy and Food Security (BEFS) Assessment and Capacity Building in Zambia.

Speaking at the launch, George Okech, FAO Country Representative for Zambia, said the project was initiated following a request from the Zambian Ministry of Energy to FAO for technical support. The Ministry of Energy was requesting technical assistance in carrying out the BEFS analysis to support the development of the bioenergy sector in Zambia.” FAO and the Ministry of Energy will implement the project in close collaboration with line ministries and the key bioenergy stakeholders until 2020”, he said.

The Minister of Energy, Honourable Mathew Nkhuwa highlighted that the project was timely as government is keen to diversify the energy basket by migrating from inefficient and unsustainable production and consumption methods of energy.

Due to deep concerns regarding the economic, social and environmental viability of bioenergy and its potentially negative impacts on food security, the Bioenergy and Food Security (BEFS) Approach was developed by FAO to support countries to develop evidence-based sustainable bioenergy policies.

The BEFS approach supports countries in understanding the linkages between food security, agriculture and energy whilst building sustainable bioenergy policies and strategies that foster both food and energy security and contribute to agricultural and rural development.

Specifically, objectives for the “BEFS Assessment and Capacity Building for Zambia” project are 1. capacity building, 2. multi-stakeholder institutional dialogue, 3. Assessment of the potential for biomass based options for rural electricity, cooking and transport. These processes are envisaged to translate into the development of a draft Bioenergy Action Plan.

 About Bioenergy

Bioenergy is energy from biofuels produced directly or indirectly from biomass. Biomass options include, among others, crop and livestock residues, sustainably managed forest resources and residues. The key for this form of energy is that it is managed and sourced sustainably. Nonetheless, sustainable bioenergy development remains a complex topic due to the vast breadth of options that range across all agriculture sectors, a variety of technologies and the related economic and financial viability.

Compared with other sources of energy, bioenergy potentially has some developmental advantages. Bioenergy can target and stimulate the agriculture sector, a critical sector for development and poverty reduction, while improving energy access, creating a new market for producers, offering new employment opportunities, and potentially contributing to environmental objectives. The key is to understand which options can realistically and sustainably be viable, considering the country’s agriculture and food security needs and priorities.

 Increasing costs of fossil fuels, the threat of climate change and the need to increase energy security and access have put alternative renewable energy sources, including bioenergy, high on the development agenda.


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