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Chapter 2: Energy for Agriculture

2.1 Entry Levels for Interventions

This Chapter looks specifically at the agricultural sector and its energy inputs. It is useful to consider three entry levels for interventions as a means of examining both the energy needs for agriculture and the requirements for rural energy services in developing countries. These three levels are based on the "energy ladder" approach. For agriculture, the three-stage evolution can be considered as follows:

For rural energy, the needs of poor people can be considered at the following three levels:

In both household and economic activities, the "energy ladder" follows and influences the "economic ladder". Attempts to alleviate poverty and to promote rural economic development and food security must be accompanied with efforts to promote the key role of energy, not simply as a goal in itself but as a vital component of these attempts.

Table 2.1 lists items in the conceptual framework relating the level of household income and the types or sources of energy services adopted by rural populations (DFID, 1999). The framework includes household, agriculture, small-scale rural industry and transport end-use requirements, and is based on empirical evidence. It illustrates the progression to modern fuels as income rises, and is based on empirical evidence gathered by the World Bank and other agencies. The data show that rural people choose to spend a significant proportion of their incomes on a better source of energy if they have access (World Bank, 1995). The table shows how opportunities generally increase and the efficiency of energy utilization also increases, while the negative impacts of energy use decrease with rising household incomes.

It can be seen that woodfuel still plays an important role for households even at higher income levels. In agriculture and industry, diesel engines and electricity replace human and animal work; where rural electrification is not available or is too costly, diesel generators may be used instead. Wind pumping for water extraction from wells, together with mini-hydro and, more recently, PV systems for small-scale electricity supplies for homes, farms and community buildings are possible renewable energy options. The use of these options may appear in future empirical evidence.

Table 2.1: Levels of household income and energy services

End use

Household income







Wood, residues, dung

Wood, charcoal, dung, kerosene, biogas

Wood, charcoal, coal, kerosene, biogas, LPG, electricity


Candles and kerosene

Candles, kerosene, gasoline

Kerosene, electricity, gasoline

Space heating

Wood, residues, dung

Wood, charcoal, dung

Wood, charcoal, dung, coal

Other appliances

Batteries (if any)

Electricity, batteries

Electricity, batteries





Animal, gasoline, diesel



Animal, wind pumps

Diesel, electricity

Post-harvest processing

Human, sun drying

Animal, water mills, sun drying

Diesel, electricity, solar drying

Rural Industry

Mechanical tools


Human, animal

Human, animal, diesel, electricity

Process heat

Wood, residues

Coal, charcoal, wood, residues

Coal, charcoal, wood, kerosene, residues


Motive power


Human, animal

Human, animal, diesel, gasoline

2.2 Energy and Agricultural Production

Agriculture is itself an energy conversion process, namely the conversion of solar energy through photosynthesis to food energy for humans and feed for animals. Primitive agriculture involved little more than scattering seeds on the land and accepting the scanty yields that resulted. Modern agriculture requires an energy input at all stages of agricultural production such as direct use of energy in farm machinery, water management, irrigation, cultivation and harvesting. Post-harvest energy use includes energy for food processing, storage and in transport to markets. In addition, there are many indirect or sequestered energy inputs used in agriculture in the form of mineral fertilizers and chemical pesticides, insecticides and herbicides.

Whilst industrialized countries have benefited from these advances in energy availability for agriculture, developing countries have not been so fortunate. "Energizing" the food production chain has been an essential feature of agricultural development throughout recent history and is a prime factor in helping to achieve food security. Developing countries have lagged behind industrialized countries in modernizing their energy inputs to agriculture.

As indicated in Chapter 1, agriculture accounts for only a relatively small proportion of total final energy demand in both industrialized and developing countries8. In OECD countries, for example, around 3-5% of total final energy consumption is used directly in the agriculture sector. In developing countries, estimates are more difficult to find, but the equivalent figure is likely to be similar - a range of 4-8% of total final commercial energy use.

The data for energy use in agriculture also exclude the energy required for food processing and transport by agro-industries. Estimates of these activities range up to twice the energy reported solely in agriculture. Definitive data do not exist for many of these stages, and this is a particular problem in analysing developing country energy statistics. In addition, the data conceal how effective these energy inputs are in improving agricultural productivity. It is the relationships between the amounts and quality of the direct energy inputs to agriculture and the resulting productive output that are of most interest.

2.3 Commercial Energy Use and Agricultural Output

On a broad regional basis, there appears to be a correlation between high per capita modern energy consumption and food production. Figure 2.1 shows data for daily food intake per capita and the annual commercial energy consumption per capita in seven world regions (FAO, 1995)9.

Figure 2.1: Modern energy consumption and food intake

Whilst broad data on a regional basis conceal many differences between countries, crop types and urban and rural areas, the correlation is strong in developing countries, where higher inputs of modern energy can be assumed to have a positive impact on agricultural output and food production levels. The correlation is less strong in industrialized regions where food production is near or above required levels and changes in production levels may reflect changes in diet and food fashion rather than any advantages gained from an increased supply of modern energy.

Looking more closely at energy use in specific crops, comparisons of commercial energy use in agriculture for cereal production in different regions of the world are listed in Table 2.2 (Stout, 1990). The relationship between commercial energy input and cereal output per hectare for the main world regions is also shown in Figure 2.2 (Stout, 1990). These data, whilst relatively old, indicate that developing countries use less than half the energy input (whether in terms of energy per hectare of arable land or energy per tonne of cereal) compared with industrialized countries. However, this is not to say that developing countries are necessarily more efficient in their use of energy for agricultural production. This energy statistic does not account for the quantity of human effort used in developing countries for agriculture. In drawing conclusions, it is also important to consider the equity and sustainability considerations when comparing energy use data.

Empirical evidence suggests that the availability of modern energy such as petroleum fuels has proven to be essential in increasing the productivity of the agricultural sector in industrialized countries. In terms of the energy used per agricultural worker, the differences are even more dramatic, with developing countries using less than 5% of the energy per agricultural worker compared with industrialized countries. An obvious difference between industrialized and developing countries is the large numbers of agricultural workers per hectare in developing countries compared with industrialized countries.

Table 2.2: Commercial energy use and cereal output (1982)


Energy per hectare of arable land (kgoe/ha)

Energy per tonne of cereal

Energy per agricultural worker(kgoe/person)





Latin America




Far East




Near East




All developing countries average




All industrialized countries average




World average




Figure 2.2: Cereal yield and energy input per hectare for the main world regions10

In general, those regions with higher energy consumption have higher agricultural yields. However, the relationships between energy input and agricultural output are also affected by the varying ecological and environmental conditions around the world; soil fertility and rain-fed water availability being prime examples. Exact comparisons at the national level are, therefore, not easily made, but it is possible to use energy inputs for specific crops to gain further insights into the relationship between energy use and agricultural productivity.

As an example of this, a comparison between the commercial energy required for rice and maize production by modern methods in the United States, and transitional and traditional methods used in the Philippines and in Mexico is shown in Table 2.3. These data show that the modern methods give greater productive yields and are much more energy-intensive than transitional and traditional methods (Stout, 1990). These methods include the use of fertilizer and other chemical inputs, more extensive irrigation and mechanized equipment.

Table 2.3: Rice and maize production by modern, transitional and traditional methods


Rice production

Maize production



(United States)






(United States)



Energy input (MJ/ha)






Productive yield (kg/ha)






Energy input yield (MJ/kg)






A further illustration of the relationship between energy intensity and agricultural productivity is given in Box 2. This presents a case study of energy use in durum wheat production in Tunisia (Myers, 1983). The study showed that farms with the highest energy input per hectare had the highest production and lowest input per tonne of production.

Box 2: Energy Use in Durum Wheat Production in Tunisia

Data from 23 small and medium-sized farms in northern Tunisia were collected in 1983. This region contains the most fertile land in Tunisia and has fairly stable production patterns. The farms were divided into three yield classifications: low (600-1000 kg/ha); middle (1010-1500 kg/ha) and high (1510-2500 kg/ha). Total energy use per hectare was found to increase and total energy use per tonne decreased as the yield increased. Farms with the highest energy input per hectare had the highest production and lowest energy input per tonne of production. Overall energy use per hectare also increased as the yield increased, whilst both human and animal work decreased. However, the use of chemical energy inputs (fertilizer and pesticide) increased as the yield increased.

Energy use per hectare for three yield classifications:

Energy use per tonne for three yield classifications:

2.4 Agricultural Energy Needs

Agriculture practices in many developing countries continue to be based to a large extent on animal and human energy. Insufficient mechanical and electrical energy is available for agriculture, and hence the potential gains in agricultural productivity through the deployment of modern energy services are not being realized. Agricultural energy demand can be divided into direct and indirect energy needs. The direct energy needs include energy required for land preparation, cultivation, irrigation, harvesting, post-harvest processing, food production, storage and the transport of agricultural inputs and outputs. Indirect energy needs are in the form of sequestered energy in fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, and insecticides.

Mankind has adapted a variety of resources to provide for energy in agriculture. Animal draught power obtained through domestication of cattle, horses and other animals has existed for over 8,000 years, the water wheel is over 2,000 years old, and windmills were introduced over 1,000 years ago. Direct sun energy for drying and biomass fuels for heating have also been prominent as agricultural energy inputs for centuries.

The bulk of direct energy inputs in developing countries, particularly in the subsistence agriculture sector, is in the form of human and animal work. Human work has a limited output, but humans are versatile, dextrous and can make judgements as they work. This gives humans an advantage in skilled operations such as transplanting, weeding, harvesting of fruits and vegetables and working with fibres. Water lifting and soil preparation need less skill but more energy input. A sustainable rate at which a fit person can use up energy is around 250-300 W, depending on climate and needing 10-30 minutes/hour rest. The efficiency of energy conversion is only about 25%, with a maximum sustainable power output of 75 W. Table 2.4 lists human power consumption for various farming activities (Carruthers and Rodriquez, 1992).

Table 2.4: Human power consumption for various farming activities


Gross power consumed (W)

Clearing bush and scrub/felling trees


Hoeing, planting


Ridging, deep digging


Ploughing with draught animal


Driving 4 wheel tractor


Driving single axle tractor


Animals provide transport of products, can pull implements and lift water and are used in processing activities such as cane crushing and threshing. The world population of draught animals is estimated at over 400 million (WEC/FAO, 1999). Animal work can alleviate human drudgery and increase agricultural production. Power output ranges from 200 W for a donkey to over 500 W for a buffalo, and daily working hours range from 4 hours for a donkey up to 10 hours for a horse. There are limitations on the performance of animals, especially at times when they are needed most in the dry season with feed, grazing and water in short supply. Implements used by animals can be pole-pull, chain-pull or wheeled carriers. Table 2.5 lists power and energy characteristics of typical farm animals in good condition (Carruthers and Rodriquez, 1992).

Table 2.5: Power and energy output of individual farm animals


Typical weight(kN)

Pull-weight ratio

Power output (W)

Energy output per day (MJ)































It seems likely that both human and animal work will continue to be used as agricultural inputs for the foreseeable future in developing countries. Efforts to support these farming traditions include work on animal efficiency, which can be improved through modernization of equipment, better breeding and animal husbandry, feeding and veterinary care, and on improved designs of animal-drawn farm equipment.

2.5 Mechanization and Conservation Agriculture

A transition to increased mechanization of farm operations has been undertaken over a long period of time. Table 2.6 lists selected indicators of agricultural mechanization using tractors and harvesters for different world regions expressed in terms of cropland area and numbers of agricultural workers (WRI, 1994). The data show a wide disparity in the degree of mechanization between the different regions, with Africa having the lowest level of mechanization.

Table 2.6: Selected indicators of agricultural mechanization



Latin America



Total population 1990 (million)





1990 agricultural workforce (million)






(million ha)










Agricultural workers/tractor















Agricultural workers/harvester










Tillage operations are used within arable farming systems, which are often the operations with the highest energy requirements. Mechanized soil tillage has in the past been associated with increased soil fertility, due to the mineralization of soil nutrients; it also allows higher working depths and speeds and the use of implements such as ploughs, disc harrows and rotary cultivators. This process leads in the long term to a reduction of soil organic matter, and most soils degrade under long lasting intensive arable agriculture with particularly detrimental effects on soil structure. The process is dramatic under tropical climate conditions but can be noticed all over the world. Reduction of mechanical tillage and promotion of soil organic matter through permanent soil cover is an approach to reverting soil degradation and other environmental impacts of conventional agriculture, achieving at the same time a high agricultural production level on truly sustainable basis. This approach is described as `conservation agriculture' and replaces mechanical soil tillage by `biological tillage'.

In this approach, crop residues remaining on the soil surface produce a layer of mulch which protects the soil from the physical impact of rain and wind, and also stabilizes the soil surface layers moisture content and temperature. This zone becomes a habitat for a number of organisms which macerate the mulch, mix it with soil and assist its decomposition to humus. Agriculture with reduced mechanical tillage is only possible when soil organisms take over the task of tilling the soil. This leads to other implications regarding the use of chemical inputs since synthetic pesticides and mineral fertilizers have to be used in a way that does not harm soil life. Conservation agriculture can only work if all agronomic factors are equally well managed11.

It should also be noted that, whilst shifts from human work to mechanized processes may offer more efficient use of resources, and deliver productive and economic benefits, the agricultural sector does provide a source of paid employment for rural people in developing countries. A balance is often required between the socio-economic benefits and the agricultural productive benefits of changing the processes (and thereby the energy inputs) involved.

2.6 Chemical inputs

Fertilizers, and other chemical inputs to agriculture, have proved important in the past in increasing food production in all regions of the world. Mineral fertilizers, chemical pesticides, fungicides and herbicides all require energy in their production, distribution and transport processes. Fertilizers form the largest of these energy inputs to agriculture, whilst pesticides are the most energy-intensive agricultural input (on a per kg basis of chemical). The need for insecticides and fungicides can, however, be reduced through greater use of pest control methods based on the principals of integrated pest management.

The energy contents of various agricultural inputs12 are listed in Table 2.7, which show illustrative values of the energy required for manufacturing these products. Full life-cycle values (i.e. from extracting the chemical raw material through to final delivery of the manufactured product to the field) would depend on several highly variable factors. These include the actual location of chemical raw material supplies relative to the productive facility, the ease of extraction, the chemical manufacturing processes, and the distances involved in transporting raw, semi-finished and finished products.

Table 2.7: Energy content of agricultural inputs


Typical rate of application (kg/ha)

Sequestered energy (MJ/kg)

Energy content of crop produce (MJ/ha)
































By comparison with the energy content of mineral fertilizer, the energy content of fresh manure is much lower at around 0.35 MJ/kg. However, the amount of plant, human and animal wastes available in developing countries that could potentially be used for organic manure is several times the consumption of chemical fertilizers in these countries. The volume of fertilizer input to agriculture differs markedly between regions of the world, as shown in Table 2.8 (WRI, 1994). The data, which are broad regional estimates, show that Africa and Latin America use very low inputs compared with Asia and Europe.

Table 2.8: Fertilizer input to agriculture (1990)


Average annual fertilizer use (kg/ha crop land)









North and Central America


Latin America


Agricultural practices are, however, changing throughout the world. In recent years, diminishing returns from increased use of fertilizers and pesticides have raised questions about their role in the transition towards more environmentally-sound agricultural practices. The main constraints in increasing organic manure use are the large labour and skills content required together with the need to change cultural attitudes and the lack of mixed livestock and crop husbandry.

2.7 Cooking

Energy is required for cooking most foods, and for boiling water for drinking, washing and for partial water purification. In small-scale food cooking, many rural households continue to rely on woodfuel. Figure 2.3 presents data on the efficiency of various cooking fuels (World Bank, 1995). The data are derived from a combination of the energy content of each fuel and the efficiency with which the fuels are typically burned for cooking in developing countries.

Figure 2.3: Energy efficiency of selected cooking fuels

Traditional biomass are generally much less efficient for cooking than modern, commercially traded fuels such as liquefied petroleum gas and kerosene. These fuels have higher energy values per unit of weight than woodfuels, and are generally used in more efficient stoves. In addition, the level of heat output of kerosene stoves can be adjusted, so making kerosene more convenient for preparing a wide range of foods. Another versatile fuel is biogas, derived from digesters using dung and farm residues, and both China and India have done much to develop biogas and encourage its use among people in rural areas. The least efficient fuels are agricultural residues, but poor people are forced to use these fuels where they are available in the local environment because they have no cash cost.

Improved cooking stove programmes have been a feature of many rural energy interventions over the last 20 years (FAO, 1996a). Work has been carried out on establishing multi-sectoral support and involvement, and integrating technology, dissemination and financing. National standards on cooking and heating efficiency and guidelines for stove programmes have been developed. Studies have shown that the health and quality of life of both women and children can be improved by improving access to biomass and providing biomass stoves which are designed to be safer to use in terms of reduced risk of burns, respiratory disease and eye problems (World Bank, 1995). Indeed, the thrust of the current work on improved cooking stoves has become one of reducing the adverse health impact of traditional cooking methods rather than one of achieving potential fuel savings or increasing stove energy efficiency.

2.8 Energy and Agroprocessing

The agroprocessing industry transforms products originating from agriculture into both food and non-food commodities. Processes range from simple preservation (such as sun drying) and operations closely related to harvesting, to the production, by modern, capital-intensive methods of such articles as textiles, pulp and paper. Upstream industries are engaged in the initial processing of products, with examples such as rice and flour milling, leather tanning, cotton ginning, oil pressing, saw milling and fish canning. Downstream industries undertake further manufacturing operations on intermediate products made from agricultural materials. Examples are bread and noodle making, textile spinning and weaving, paper production, clothing and footwear manufacture and rubber manufacture13.

An energy input is required in food processing, as well as in packaging, distribution and storage. Many food crops when harvested cannot be consumed directly, but must pass through several stages of processing as well as cooking in order to be palatable and digestible. Raw meats, uncooked grains, vegetables and even fruits require preparation and heating to enhance their flavour, rendering their components edible and digestible. The processing and cooking stages reduce harmful organisms and parasites, which might pose health hazards.

Poorly handled and stored food can become spoiled and contaminated. Food preservation usually requires the application of heat to destroy micro-biological agents, such as bacteria, yeast and mould. Pasteurization causes the inactivation of spoilage enzymes and reduction of bacteria at temperatures around 80-90oC. Heat sterilization can use atmospheric steam at 100oC for high-acid foods, and pressurized steam at around 120oC for low acid foods. Other techniques include dehydration to reduce moisture content, pickling/smoking to reduce microbial activity, fermentation, salting and freezing.

Food transformation activities are generally less energy-intensive and release less CO2 and metal residues than most other industrial activities per unit of product. As described in more detail below, agroprocessing industries, such as sugar mills, can become not only energy self-sufficient through the energy conversion of biomass residues, but also electricity producers for export to other users.

2.9 Energy Policies in Agriculture

The international community has agreed that a priority in Agenda 21 should be promoting sustainable agriculture and rural development (SARD) and one of the programme areas [Chapter 14k in Agenda 21] is to encourage a rural energy transition in order to enhance productivity (UNCED, 1992). The objectives of this programme area include initiating the required transition by making available new and renewable sources of energy and increasing the energy inputs available for rural household and agro-industrial needs. Rural programmes favouring sustainable development of renewable energy sources and improved energy efficiency are also called for in Agenda 21 in the programme area dealing with protection of the atmosphere [Chapter 9b in Agenda 21].

CSD-8 in April 2000 included agriculture and forests as the major economic sector for discussion, and CSD-9 in April 2001 will examine atmosphere and energy as sectoral themes and energy and transport as economic themes. There are clear links between these two sessions of CSD.

The international framework for action does, therefore, exist. Nevertheless, it seems clear from the data presented in this Chapter that there is a wide disparity between energy inputs in agriculture in industrialized countries with that in developing countries and that this disparity is hindering agricultural productivity gains. One consequence of this is that enhanced food security is more difficult to achieve. This affects not only the quantity of food produced, but also the quality - people are forced to eat uncooked food or food that can easily be cooked but which may not give full nourishment.

This situation is manifest in the general lack of an agricultural component in rural energy development policies. Agriculture contributes significantly to economic and social development, accounting for around 30% of developing country GDP14, but energy provision for agriculture has not received the attention that the sector deserves. The World Bank has observed (World Bank, 2000b) that most energy policies in developing countries have traditionally focused on large capital investments in the generation and transmission of electricity, gas and petroleum products, so enabling the commercial development of energy supply industries. These policies are designed mainly for the needs of industry, transport and urban infrastructure, and thereby focus most attention on urban populations, whilst rural populations (and to some extent peri-urban populations) and their energy requirements are frequently overlooked.

Even where there has been a focus on rural energy and development and attention given to the scope for improving energy services to rural populations, much of the work has concentrated on the household use of energy. For example, there have been many programmes to expand the use of improved cooking stoves and to provide households and community buildings with small amounts of electrical power through the development of solar home systems using PV technology. Whilst these PV programmes offer many benefits at the household level, none of them have directly tackled the energy supply problems in the agriculture sector (FAO, 2000a), and nor have they promoted income generating activities. Such activities are the only way for rural people to break out from the vicious circle of poverty15.

FAO has been active in assisting developing countries to meet their energy requirements in agriculture, forestry and fisheries as a means of achieving sustainable rural development. An integrated approach to incorporating energy into rural and agricultural planning has been promoted, together with the increased use of modern energy technologies. Activities sponsored by FAO have included, for example, a project in China, which integrated alcohol production from sorghum with biogas, pyrolysis, solar and wind energy systems (FAO, 1994). This work also examined energy conservation and the potential of various renewable energy sources in specific farm activities. The project is presently being expanded to produce ethyl tertiary butyl ether (ETBE) from ethanol. ETBE is then mixed with gasoline and offers reduced air pollution and CO2 emissions from transport. Trials are planned for Shanghai and Shenyang.

2.10 Food Security

The 1996 Rome Declaration on World Food Security reaffirmed the right of everyone to have access to safe and nutritious food, consistent with the right to adequate food and the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger. FAO recently reviewed the state of food insecurity in the world and identified that in the developing world, 790 million people do not have enough to eat (FAO, 2000b). Whilst there are many reasons for this situation, there is scope for improved productivity and food security by increasing energy inputs in rural areas. The analysis in this Chapter shows, therefore, that there is a clear rural energy gap in the agricultural sector, which needs to be bridged.

All agricultural production has to become commercial to enable long-term food security; as one of the prime inputs to agriculture, energy plays a decisive role in attaining food security. Attempts to alleviate hunger and to promote rural development and food security must be accompanied by efforts to promote the key role of energy, not as a goal in itself but as a vital component of these attempts. In many cases, it seems that the low quality and the meagre amounts of energy available for the food production and supply chain are at the heart of food security problems.

The empirical evidence and examples presented earlier in this Chapter indicate that it is possible to quantify the extent of this gap in energy terms. However, if this gap were to be closed by an over-zealous use of fossil fuels, then some of the adverse environmental and resource utilization issues identified in Chapter 1 will become more pressing. This solution would not offer a sustainable means of tackling the energy gap problem. Development and deployment of renewable energy systems together with improved end-use energy efficiency techniques can provide an alternative means of helping to bridge this gap. A large number of such energy technologies are mature and commercially available, whilst others still require further research or demonstration. Actions to invest in cost-effective systems and to develop the most promising new technologies are needed.

2.11 Impact of Trade on Energy Demand in Agriculture

The recent moves towards opening world markets to a much wider agricultural trade will have an impact on energy requirements in the agricultural sector. Greater international trade will encourage and require more energy for processing primary agricultural products closer to the source of production in developing countries, then transporting, storing and finally distributing these products to industrialized countries. For example, horticultural products often have a high added value and a transportation and storage system between the farm and the end market using a cold-chain or a controlled modified atmosphere is needed to maintain this value. Hence the new trade opportunities point to additional energy intensive applications developing in the agricultural sector, so increasing the level of energy demand in developing countries.

2.12 A New Direction for Energy in Agriculture - the Use of Measurable Indicators

Ways of measuring the sustainability of energy and agriculture and in particular the benefits of improved energy services for agriculture need to be established, so that indicators of progress can be developed. For example, current work on sustainability indicators could be adapted to include energy and agriculture16. Such measures would assist the establishment of a bridge between the rural energy and agricultural policy dimensions so that agricultural energy needs can be included in overall energy planning and policy formation. FAO has initiated work in this field and is developing energy indicators of sustainable agriculture. A third linkage is between the environmental dimension and energy use by agriculture, and suitable indicators of this also need to be developed.

Energy problems and solutions for agriculture should always be guided by local economic, environmental and social considerations. Energy policy formation should bring together national energy development policies with the locally perceived priorities. There needs to be increased emphasis on non-fossil fuel alternatives to the provision of energy services in agriculture in developing countries (Best, 1997). These range from the modern renewable energy sources, such as improved biomass conversion (including liquid biofuels, biogas, gasification), solar energy (PV), wind and geothermal energy and small-scale hydropower, to lower energy intensity industries, material and energy recycling and better means of utilizing traditional energy sources, such as improved cooking stoves. In addition, there needs to be improved energy efficiency in mechanical equipment and in drying and separating operations.

The agriculture sector can move towards a path of greater sustainability through the application of improved techniques and practices such as conservation agriculture, organic farming, protecting agro-biodiversity, better water and soil management, and integrated pest management and plant nutrition. Where appropriate a greater level of mechanization and improved food-processing technologies are also important. The main challenge in the medium term for energy in agriculture is to mobilize the changes occurring in both the energy supply and the agricultural sectors to the benefit of rural livelihoods and communities. There is a danger that rural populations could be left behind unless energy policies are directed specifically on their needs. It seems clear from the analysis presented in this Chapter that energy requirements should be appropriately considered and integrated into agricultural and rural development programmes.

8 Methodological limitations regarding the boundaries of data collection, statistical analysis and definitions may mask the true picture. However, the basic assessments and propositions in this Chapter remain valid.

9 The regions are (in ascending order of energy use per capita): Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, East Asia/Pacific, Latin America/Caribbean, Middle East/North Africa, Europe, OECD.

10 The world regions used (in ascending order of energy per hectare of arable land) are: Africa, Latin America, Far East, Near East, Eastern Europe, Asia, North America, Western Europe.

11 Additional information about the work of FAO in conservation agriculture can be found at <>.

12 Source: Data derived from Stout, 1990, and FAO statistics estimates. Additional data may be found from the IFOAM web site <>.

13 Further information on FAO's work in the agroprocessing industry and economic development can be found at

14 Compared with 7-8% of GDP for industrialized countries; source: FAO, 1995.

15 Annex A.3 contains some additional findings from recent FAO work on the impact of PV systems in rural development.

16 Annex A.1 contains some further details of the work on developing energy and agriculture indicators. The web site <> also has additional information.

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