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Total development assistance from international agencies for bioenergy projects has been small in relation to spending on agriculture, power generation and distribution, oil, gas and coal exploration and production. Funding for forestry amounts to less than 2 % of the loans made by the large multilateral development banks, and from 1980–1984 that share declined in relation to other sectors (24). Nevertheless, cumulative support for fuelwood and forestry projects has been sizeable. According to Eckholm (41) between 1977 and early 1984 institutional lenders collectively contributed more than 500 million US dollars to more than 100 community forestry and related projects. The major part of this support has gone to tree-planting and forest management programmes. More than 100 cookstove programmes have also been initiated, but very few support programmes related to the wood fuels using rural industries have been implemented, despite the significant pressure they evidently put on the declining forest resources. However, one of the most effective bioenergy support strategies is to improve the efficiency of wood energy conversion systems used by the rural industries in developing countries. Though energy conservation is usually considered a concept primarily relevant for the industrialized countries, the opportunities are even greater in the developing countries because their efficiency of energy use is much lower. However, these technologies, like supply-oriented strategies, also demand careful planning to fit local needs and conditions.

Examples of successful wood-energy related aid programmes are, among others, the World Bank funded energy conservation project for the tobacco industry of Malawi (3), the aid projects of the Government of the Netherlands for the tea, rubber, and coconut industries of Sri Lanka (2) and producer gas projects of the Philippines and Brazil, just to mention a few.

As noted by the Expert Consultation in Rome (35) there also seems to be a lack of awareness at national level on the importance of wood energy for rural processing activities and agreed that coordinated efforts and actions should be carried out in order to modify the present situation, in which international organizations should play an important part. At international and national level, the role of non-governmental organizations, which are already involved in many improved fuelwood and charcoal stove projects and could extend their activities to rural processing activities, could also be of significance.

One of the most important activities is, without doubt, to prepare a greater number of field surveys in order to collect, in a systematic way, more detailed information on the wood energy systems applied by rural processing industries. In this way, the significance of these wood-using industries could be demonstrated to local authorities and national institutions and supported through mobilization of village organizations.

Surveys should be conducted at three levels to obtain the data needed for possible interventions. Firstly, desk studies at national level concerning wood fuel supply and consumption patterns for different rural industries and processing activities; secondly, more detailed in-depth studies of specific industries and/or districts; and thirdly, detailed field verifications and analysis of high impact processing plants and the applied wood energy conversion systems. These would provide the basis for pilot and/or demonstration projects as appropriate.

In order to create awareness and to encourage the involvement of national institutions, the support from international agencies could be given in some of the following ways:

The national institutions will also require financial assistance for the implementation of demonstration and pilot projects and for training of managers, technicians and labourers.

The type of support activity that FAO should undertake will vary between the three categories of rural industries using wood fuel, within them and also between countries and regions.

The methodologies for determining the potential support could, for example, be through cost/benefit analysis of different types of interventions. In the more formal sector, and in countries with a relatively high level of technical and dissemination skills, improving the energy efficiency of equipment and/or its mode of operation would provide a more rapid and effective intervention in the short term than increasing the availability of fuelwood. However, where the fuelwood resources are already in danger or considerable amounts of research and development - either technical or socio-economic - are required, this may not be the case, and the establishment of new fuelwood plantations or the substitution of wood by agricultural residues might be of higher priority.

The rural industries using wood fuels, that on the basis of available data seem to be of high priority for interventions by FAO, are the cottage/village level food processing activities of all regions, the potteries, tea, brick and lime industries of Asia; the tobacco and cocoa industries and fish smokeries of Africa, and the coffee, ceramic, mineral and steel industries of Latin America. The scope of interventions to improve the operation of these industries tends to be wide. Areas for technical improvement are, for example, improved fuelwood drying and handling, improvement of firing processes, combustion systems and their control, maintenance, insulation, heat recovery and implementation of new energy conversion technologies.

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