Posted May 1996
The FAO Regional Office for Europe has been supporting research cooperation and information exchange in Europe through the European System of Cooperative Research Networks in Agriculture (ESCORENA) since 1974, and in the field of alternative energy applications since 1983. Its activities have been mainly geared to network a considerable number of researchers from both western and eastern Europe.
Each of the 13 ESCORENA networks is organized around a few well-defined subjects. Thus, usually a network comprises several specialized working groups (WGs). Environmental concerns figure strongly in the networks on Pastures and Fodder Crops, Sheep and Goat Research, Animal Waste Mangement, Trace Elements, Natural Antioxidants and Contaminants in Foods and Diets and the Sustainable Rural Environment and Energy Network (SREN).
The Sustainable Rural Environment and Energy Network (SREN) - formerly the European Cooperative Network on Rural Energy (CNRE) - consists currently of four working groups: Biomass for Energy and Environment, Environmental Aspects of Anaerobic Treatments and Decentralized Energy Sources and Pollination and Pollinator Diversity Management. Two ad hoc working groups are in the process of being formed on animal draught power and biological farming.
Several new activities are under consideration, including biodiesel production, energy aspects in organic farming, habitat preservation for biodiversity and beneficial insects, closed-system greenhouses, a databank and bulletin board and information flow to farmers' associations. This is just to show how the focus of one of the networks is changing over the years from a mostly "alternative energy" technology approach to one that is putting the environmental impact of energy technologies first. This change in focus has come from the participants themselves, although it is very much in line with the increasing emphasis of FAO programmes towards environmentally-friendly and sustainable agricultural practices.
The SREN Network was particularly active during the late 1980s and published, in addition to a newsletter, 13 volumes in the FAO/REU Technical Series alone, covering themes of the earlier and present working groups. SREN is now going through a revival of activities under the new focus.
In 1994 and at the end of 1993 for example, SREN held two planning and coordination workshops and two major international workshops, in which scientists from non-European regions also participated. They were: "Biogas Technologies as an Environmental Solution to Pollution", Israel, June 1994, and "Environmental Aspects of Production and Conversion of Biomass for Energy", Germany, November 1994. Increasingly, cooperation is being sought with non-European scientists, since much of the information and technology is also applicable to countries in other continents and climates. In 1995, the Network held the first seminar of the Pollination and Pollinator Diversity Management Working Group and of the joint FAO/CIHEAM Working Group on Animal Traction. The preparation of a comprehensive catalogue on Potential Energy Crops for Europe and the Mediterranean Region was started in 1995. The catalogue is expected to be published in 1996.
The 1996 programme includes a workshop on Decentralized Energy Resources for Agriculture (held in March 1996), work on Anaerobic Fermentation Technologies and Biomass Production and Conversion, and a round table discussion on Biological Farming Research.
For further information, contact:
FAO/Regional Office for Europe
Viale delle Terme di Caracalla
00100 Rome, Italy