How countries are working to make their bioeconomies sustainable


Plans to pilot components of the project ‘Towards Sustainable Bioeconomy Guidelines‘ in Namibia and Uruguay are underway following the second biannual meeting of the International Sustainable Bioeconomy Working Group at FAO Headquarters.

This project aims to develop sustainable bioeconomy guidelines to assist countries in developing and implementing sustainable bioeconomy strategies, policies and programmes.

From 15-16 November, 20 members of the International Sustainable Bioeconomy Working Group (ISBWG), from Africa, Asia, Europe, North and South America, including government representatives from Uruguay and Namibia, gathered in Rome for a two-day meeting / study tour. These meetings are an opportunity to inform the ISBWG about the progress of the project and advise one another on how to further develop the project components within their respective countries.

The meeting was also an opportunity to visit the Novamont  production plant, near Terni, Umbria. This integrated biorefinery is based on the efficient use of biomass and on the regeneration of local areas and marginal lands.

The visit to the plant and its fields of cardoon allowed the participants to connect the meeting presentations and discussions to a tangible example of a bioeconomy operation. Cardoon, from which vegetable oil is extracted, is an inedible, wild artichoke and a close relative of the sunflower.

The innovate character of the company is notable throughout Italy: The company supplies supermarkets with biodegradable plastic bags, plastic mulching and other compostable bioproducts such as forks and knifes. FAO itself is a customer.

It was the first time that the participants had visited a plant of this kind where high value-added building blocks for bioproducts such as biolubricants, cosmetics, bioplastics or bioherbicides are produced through the integration of biological and chemical processes.

The production model that Novamont promotes is established on decommissioned and uncompetitive industrial sites that they then restore. In this way these biorefineries, integrated in the local areas, create jobs and make high value-added products with a low environmental impact.  

“This innovative approach shows how bioeconomy done in a sustainable way and adapted to the local context and needs of rural communities, can positively contribute to farmers’ livelihoods,  agriculture and rural development.” 

explained Anne Bogdanski, a FAO Natural Resources Officer who coordinates the project on sustainable bioeconomy guidelines.

The next ISBWG meeting is likely to take place in Montevideo, Uruguay in Spring 2019, where the working group will be familiarized with bioeconomy in the Latin American context.

For more information and regular updates on FAO’s work on bioeconomy and the ISBWG:


FAO's country support

In January 2015, at a meeting of the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA) in Berlin, 62 Ministers of Agriculture recommended that FAO coordinate the international work on bioeconomy.

In 2016, FAO started working on the development of Sustainable Bioeconomy Guidelines, with the support of the German Ministry for Food and Agriculture (BMEL), building upon its extensive experience on sustainable bioenergy. As a next step, an International Sustainable Bioeconomy Working Group (ISBWG) was established, including government representatives, research organizations, the private sector, NGOs and other international organizations.