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Chapter 1. Introduction

Many countries in Africa continue to be among the lowest per capita energy consumers in the world. In all sectors, industry, agriculture, transport, household and commercial, a lack of minimum energy inputs has lead to continued low productivity and impaired economic growth. It is also clear that in all sectors, energy is but one of the many important inputs for production, conversion, processing and commercialization. However, and especially in the agricultural sector of most African countries, increased yields and production due to energy and other inputs, can lead to important benefits such as improved incomes, new employment opportunities and agro-industrial growth, which will in themselves tend to increase energy requirements. In this context, energy can be viewed as a "motor" for development.

The energy/agriculture relationship is, therefore, more complex than a mere econometric one. It has unique social and political elements, and in the case of Africa, it relates to the great majority of the population, a large proportion of which remains immersed in a vicious cycle of poverty, drudgery and malnutrition, and, in energy terms, outside the development thrust enjoyed by other sectors of the population.

Food security issues, particularly in Africa, have acquired a revived and new emphasis. Thirty countries in sub-Saharan Africa alone, suffered from low or critically low levels of food security in the period between 1991 and 1993. Many other countries in the Region will require emergency assistance due to shortfalls in food production. Achieving the aim that "all people at all times have access to the food they need for a healthy, active life", will necessarily imply increasing the quality and quantity of energy inputs. Particularly where hunger is caused by widespread and persistent poverty, energy can have an impact, both as a direct input, and through the benefits it carries related to rural infrastructure, employment and enhanced level of life.

This study, through a systematic analysis of the historical and present energy scenario in the agricultural sector, aims at identifying the main constraints facing that sector in mobilizing the benefits of a stable, solid and healthy energy situation in rural areas. It focuses specifically on the agricultural sector, and does not discuss forestry and household issues which are the main topics of other studies. The study does not pretend to be comprehensive, either in geographical or topical terms. It identifies and discusses the trends and results of energy development in the Region as a whole. It also develops and applies a methodological approach to five countries of the Region - Cameroon, Mali, Sudan, Tanzania and Zimbabwe - and sets the basis for more detailed national, subregional and regional studies.

The main constraint in preparing this study was the lack of data regarding energy consumption in the agricultural sector, especially by small farms and producers. This reflects the sparse attention this energy sub-sector has normally received from energy and agriculture institutions, which is probably one of the main causes of the problems facing rural energy development. The data available is generally incomplete, frequently unreliable, to be found in different sources and rarely compiled in an organized manner. In order to fill this data gap at least partially, contact was established with a number of national experts, who assisted in the identification and collation of energy and related information useful in the case studies. Of great importance in the process of preparation of this study, was the "AfDB/FAO Seminar on Energy and Agriculture", convened by the African Development Bank in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, from 30 November to 2 December, 1994. Over 25 experts from more than 20 countries discussed a first draft of the study, and provided invaluable inputs and comments.

Energy inputs are recognized as a key factor in achieving sustainable agriculture and rural development - SARD. Agenda 21, adopted at the United Nations Conference for Environment and Development - UNCED, in 1992, calls for specific efforts in the energy field to promote sustainability and a better environment. This study is also set in the context of FAO's energy activities and overall efforts in promoting an effective implementation of Agenda 21.

The authors of this study are Mr. Michael Lazarus, Mr. Evan Hansen and Mr. David Hill from SEI (Stockholm Environment Institute - Boston), Mr. Stephen Karekezi and Mr. Lugard Majoro from APREPREN (African Energy Policy Research Network), and Mr. Gustavo Best and Mr. Jeff Tschirley from FAO. Members of FAO's Energy Working Group and Officers from the African Energy Programme of AfDB contributed with comments and inputs.

This study represents a contribution from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations to the African Energy Programme of the African Development Bank.

FAO thanks the African Development Bank for its support and hopes that this study will assist their efforts to promote socio-economic development in Africa.

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