A significant part of agricultural production goes through some degree of transformation between harvesting and consumption to make food edible and digestible. Energy is required to preserve food, reduce post-harvest losses and to extend the availability of food over a longer period. Limited access to energy is one of the challenges that must be overcome for small- and medium-sized enterprises to establish themselves in rural areas.
Providing technical and policy support
FAO’s Rural Infrastructure and Agro-Industries Division (AGS) assists member countries to develop appropriate policies, strategies and methodologies for improving agricultural support systems; the delivery of services and technologies for production and post-production activities; and the efficiency of food chains.
Food losses and waste
A recent FAO study, Global food losses and food waste – extent, causes and prevention has shown that around one-third of the food we produce is not consumed. A significant share of total energy inputs are embedded in these losses. In developing countries, most food losses occur during harvest and storage. For this reason, improving post-harvest activities in developing countries represents a priority area for increasing farmers’ income. Food losses are often caused by a lack of access to energy for adequate post-harvesting operations, such as drying, storage and processing, as well as a lack of transportation and distribution.
Small- and medium-scale food processing operations
FAO supports research for, and establishment of, small- and medium-scale food processing industries. The emphasis has been on food preservation in rural and semi-urban areas, on small-scale, labour-intensive industries with low-cost available materials and on import substitution. Specific energy-related activities include a programme operating in 35 African countries to support the local construction of fuel efficient smoking ovens and the introduction of insulated storage containers that can preserve ice longer.
By-products, residues and waste for energy production
Another factor that influences the development of the agrifood industry is the need to manage industrial by-products, residues and wastes in an environmentally sound way. One management option is to use industrial wastes to produce bioenergy. FAO works to develop and adopt production systems that are productive, sustainable and leave the lightest possible environmental footprint. The Organization’s activities in this area include investigating the recovery of waste process energy from food factories.
last updated: Wednesday, January 16, 2013