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03.10.2010 - 01.11.2010

Measuring the Impacts of Bioenergy Production on Food Security

Dear Forum Members,

I am the Technical Officer of the Bioenergy and Food Security Criteria and Indicators (BEFSCI) Project within the Climate, Energy and Tenure Division of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN.
BEFSCI is currently developing a set of detailed criteria, indicators, good practices and policy options on sustainable bioenergy production that safeguards and, if possible, fosters food security, in order to:

  • inform the development of national frameworks aimed at preventing the risk of negative impacts (and increasing the opportunities) of bioenergy development on food security; and
  • help developing countries monitor and respond to the impacts of bioenergy production on food security and its various dimensions and sub-dimensions.

Through this work, BEFSCI is currently informing and feeding into on-going discussions and work on food security-related principles, criteria and indicators under other bioenergy initiatives, such as the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels (RSB) and the Global Bioenergy Partnership (GBEP).

BEFSCI has developed a preliminary set of indicators that countries can use to monitor the impacts of modern bioenergy production on food security. Among these, the “core” ones are:

  1. Changes in production of, stocks of and trade in main staple crops (see appendix I).
  2. Change in domestic use of main staple crops for:
    - food;
    - feed;
    - and fuel (see appendix I).
  3. Changes in inflation-adjusted (“real”) prices of main staple crops due to bioenergy production and resulting net welfare impacts on poor households (see appendix II).
  4. Changes in agrobiodiversity due to bioenergy production and resulting impacts on household dietary diversity (see appendix III).

The three appendixes provide an overview of these indicators, which we would like to discuss with you. In particular, we would like to focus the discussion around the following questions:

  1. In your opinion, do these indicators capture the main impacts that bioenergy production can have on food security? Do they seem sufficiently robust and practical to you? Please provide a separate answer for each indicator. Would you have alternative or additional “core” indicators to suggest?
  2. With regard to indicator # 3, do you believe that quantitative assessments (methodological approaches b and c) are necessary only if the qualitative assessment (methodological approach a) shows that there is a high risk of competition between bioenergy feedstock production and the production of main staple crops for food?
  3. Based on your experience in your country or in other countries, which challenges do you foresee in measuring these indicators over time, particularly in terms of data requirements, complexity of the methodological approach/es, technical competencies required, and costs involved? In case these challenges cannot be overcome, which proxies would you recommend? Please provide a separate answer for each indicator.

Your feedback on these questions would be really appreciated. A second discussion (with a focus on food security indicators for certification) will be organized by the BEFSCI project later this year.

Thank you in advance for your time and inputs, which will be incorporated into a revised version of the indicators.

The BEFSCI team will keep you informed about the progress of the indicators formulation process and we will also keep you posted on the other related activities and outcomes of the project.

In the meantime, we are looking forward to a fruitful discussion with you.

Best regards,

Andrea Rossi
Natural Resources Management Officer (Bioenergy)
Bioenergy and Food Security Criteria and Indicators (BEFSCI) Project
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

This discussion is now closed. Please contact fsn-moderator@fao.org for any further information.