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¹ Part of this introduction Is drawn from a paper prepared for FAO by G. Barnard (1986).

Energy, as the content of matter, or as the capacity to do work, is everywhere and a concern to everyone. However, looking at development issues from an energy point of view was rare until the world energy crisis of the 1970s, and is still rare in rural development (RD) project analysis. Energy is not always a constraint to development, and is not often the essential constraint of any given area and population. The productivity of a natural ecosystem is around 6 kg per hectare per year of protein suitable for humans, and this meagre yield is only obtainable from the better land on the earth's surface. Conceivably, such an unintensified system might support globally around two hundred million people, a figure surpassed by the Middle Ages. Today, the world contains over five thousand million people, with a population doubling time of about 25 years. We have no choice but to use energy-driven technology to raise the productivity of land - a productivity which in some of today's more intensive systems produces fifty times as much protein per hectare as a natural system.

The price we pay for this intensification may be gauged from the Table, which shows the energy consumption for food production in a number of countries.

It is therefore essential, in project formulation, to verify if it is indeed a constraint, in what way and to what extent. For example:

- an irrigation project, using diesel pumps, can fail if diesel fuel is unavailable at the time of year when water is needed, or is too expensive for the farmer to buy;

- in a rural industry, health centre or school, expensive electrical equipment will be virtually useless if electricity supplies are unreliable and subject to blackouts at crucial periods;

- firewood shortages and rising prices can severely affect the viability of rural industries depending on wood as an energy source;

- where villagers have to search for hours to find enough firewood, they may have very little time to spare for other more productive activities. For them, improved farming methods which depend on additional inputs of labour may prove to be entirely impractical - a shortage of energy for cooking leading to a shortage of human energy for agriculture.

TABLE: Energy Use in Agriculture to the Farm Gate Direct and Indirect

1000 tons oil equiv.

Indirect % of National Use

1000 tons oil equiv.

Direct % of National Use

Direct & Indirect % National

Total Energy per capita TOE/cap.


UK (1978)







USSR (1972/73)







China (1972/73)







Canada (1972/73)







Developing Country In Africa (1972/73)







Developing Country In Latin America (1972/73)







Developing Country In Far East (1972/73)







Developing Country in Near East (1972/73)







Source: Energy for World Agriculture, B.A. Stout (FAO, Rome, 1979).

Projects which fail to recognise constraints such as these can run into major difficulties. Even when the rest of the project is carefully planned, if the energy element has been forgotten, all the effort and resources that have gone into the project may end up being wasted.

For agricultural and rural development planners, it is important Co be aware of energy issues - to be able to spot where energy bottlenecks exist, and think ahead Co predict where problems may occur in future.

But energy planning is not simply about overcoming constraints. It is also about recognising opportunities. There are many situations where even quite small additional inputs of energy, or improvements in efficiency, can bring major spin-off benefits:

- where agricultural systems are limited by labour shortages at peak periods in the farming year, a labour-saving device such as a small motorised tiller can be a big help, allowing farmers to plant their crops on time and achieve better yields;

- small amounts of energy used in irrigation can greatly increase the productivity of a farm, allowing additional crops to be grown and reducing the risks of crop failure due to erratic rainfall;

- in rural industries, modifying equipment so as to make more efficient use of energy - using better insulation on furnaces or boilers, for example - reduces fuel costs and can substantially improve the profitability of the business;

- simple economy measures in the home can save on the amount of firewood used for cooking - sheltering the fire from draughts, for example, and putting lids on pots while they simmer, can significantly reduce wood consumption. Where families have to buy their cooking fuels, investing in a more efficient stove will often make sense - and pay for itself in just a few months;

- in some cases, there are possibilities for making use of local energy resources that would otherwise go to waste. If these can be tapped effectively, they may be able to provide energy more cheaply and more reliably than existing sources.

There are, therefore, many good reasons why agricultural and rural development planners should take energy Into account in their overall planning. When it comes to specific projects, their exact role varies. In some cases, they are responsible for all phases of the project - from the identification stage, right through to implementation and follow-up. In others, their job is mainly in coordinating the efforts of others.

This document is not meant to be a normative prescription on the subject, but rather a guide Co project analysts indicating where to look, and how to start. The objective is to make the agronomist or the economist involved in project analysis able to identify the main energy concerns, and to decide whether a specialised study is required.

It includes first a paper on concepts, which defines the field of concern and the main terms which will be used in the text or in the reference materials. The second paper reviews each stage of the project cycle from an "energy point of view" and points out the areas for study. The third paper deals more in depth with the issues of economic analysis related to energy concerns.

The fourth chapter is an example of specialised analysis where, for one common energy requirement of RD projects - the need for pumping for irrigation - a detailed comparison of energy alternatives is proposed.

The fifth chapter is a brief introduction to a new science of very ancient practice - agro-forestry - and references are also given to the vast literature on forestry projects and wood energy.

Finally, the last chapters are case studies of specific projects in developing countries, with proposals for participatory approaches to planning.

A selected bibliography for further study concludes the volume.

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