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  • Potential of Bamboo for Sustainable Renewable Energy Production in West Africa

Potential of Bamboo for Sustainable Renewable Energy Production in West Africa

"Using Bamboo for Sustainable Renewable Energy Production in West Africa" Regional workshop in Accra, Ghana on 27 November 2019.
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Across many rural and peri-urban areas in West Africa, a large proportion of households rely on charcoal or fuel wood as the main source of energy, especially for cooking. Over the years, the extraction of wood for charcoal production has been identified as a significant driver of forest degradation and deforestation within the region. With increasing population growth, the demand for charcoal or fuel wood is expected to increase with serious consequences for the region’s fast depleting forest resources, which provide critical ecosystem services. Again, the rapid depletion of forests will undoubtedly affect the sub-region’s carbon emission reduction efforts and climate change mitigation capacities.

The Potential of Bamboo as Energy Source

Bamboo processing. Freshly harvested sections of bamboo shoots in the pot ready to be steamed, before being fermented and dried, Tianlin County, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, China. Photo by Hannah Brodie-Hall/CIFOR

Bamboo biomass can be processed through thermal or biochemical conversion to produce different energy products, including charcoal, pellets, and briquettes, which can serve as substitutions for wood fuel products. As an alternative source of energy, it has been used extensively in countries such as China, India and Brazil. Empirical evidence show that the thermal calorific value of bamboo charcoal (approximately 4500 kcal kg-1) is comparable to commonly used biomass resources such as acacia and teak. In addition, a comparative life cycle assessment of producing charcoal from bamboo, acacia and teak suggest that charcoal production from bamboo is a more environmentally friendly and cost-effective option. Bamboo pellets are considered reliable biomass energy sources in certain parts of the world. In terms of mass and energy density, pellets from bamboo have characteristics superior to other biomass products, such as woodchips and briquettes.  Such higher density allows for easy and cost-effective transportation and greater efficiency in energy generation with suitable properties for residential and industrial use. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, pellet production around the world grew from 7 to 19 million tons from 2006 to 2012 signifying the growing demand for pellets and its recognition as a clean energy source.

Several bamboo species exist in the West Africa sub-region; however, the most prevailing species is Bambusa vulgaris with high growth rate and biomass production. This make the b. vulgaris a potential resource for the production of bamboo energy products. With a projected rise in the consumption of wood fuels and charcoal by 2030, the prospects for bamboo-based energy products are expected to rise in terms of economic and environmental returns.

Regional Bamboo Bioenergy Workshop

A moment during the regional workshop organized by INBAR in Accra, Ghana.

The International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR), in partnership with the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), convened a regional workshop on “Using Bamboo for Sustainable Renewable Energy Production in West Africa” at the Royal Beulah Hotel in Accra, Ghana on 27 November 2019. The workshop provided a platform for research scientists, policy makers, entrepreneurs, policy experts, natural resource managers, and renewable energy experts from Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Madagascar, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo to deliberate on the potential of bamboo as a critical resource for producing clean energy to drive economic growth, rural livelihoods and environmental sustainability.

Participants also had the opportunity to deliberate on ways of scaling up the establishment of bamboo plantations to provide sustainable biomass for the production of renewable energy in African countries as well as address deforestation, degradation and carbon emissions challenges, which directly contributes to the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals 7, 13 and 15.

Presenting an overview of the workshop, Ernest Nti Acheampong, the programme manager of the Inter Africa Bamboo Smallholder Livelihood Development Programme at INBAR WARO noted that in spite of the abundance of bamboo resources in many African countries and the desire of to shift to alternative sources of energy that are more environmentally friendly, African countries are limited by appropriate policies on alternative energy and the lack of technology that can support the production of affordable clean energy. He reiterated that the participatory nature of the workshop was designed to encourage networking, knowledge sharing and collaborative partnership among institutions for the strategic development of bamboo for renewable energy production at both domestic and commercial levels.

To set the tone for deliberations around the potential of bamboo biomass for sustainable bioenergy production, a total of six presentations were made by resource experts under the thematic areas: bamboo for domestic commercial energy production, bamboo for landscape restoration and degraded landscape, and bamboo for carbon mitigation highlighted the socio-economic and environmental implications of harnessing the potential of bamboo as a priority resource.

At the end of the workshop, it was observed that:

  • Bamboo presents opportunities for socio-economic development and environmental benefits in African countries by playing a vital role in substituting wood fuel which contributes to forest degradation;
  • A national strategy and action plan is needed to support the sustainable development of the bamboo value chain in African countries. It is also critical to recognize and include bamboo as a sustainable natural material in national renewable energy development plans;
  • Modern technologies for the production of bamboo based energy products offer a pathway towards energy dependency in African countries especially in a period where wooded forests are being depleted at an alarming rate. Strong policies and incentives are needed to guide bamboo development and encourage the production of affordable energy from bamboo;
  • Further research is required on the cost-benefit analysis of different technologies so as to improve the efficiency of traditional biomass use;
  • Governments need to support and promote private-public partnerships for the development of the renewable sub-sector. This means for example, investment and financial support for small and medium scale business enterprises in bamboo charcoal pellets, briquette production;
  • To expand bamboo based commercial energy production requires addressing complex issues such as streamlining current land tenure systems and rights, land use planning, and mobilizing stakeholders for the establishment of largescale bamboo plantations. Also essential is the use of highly desirable bamboo species for energy production.

With a stronger commitment to improve both rural and urban energy needs, African countries could be in a better position address it perennial energy crisis through the use of bamboo biomass as an alternative source of energy. Upscaling the development and use of energy from bamboo biomass could provide a viable market for the use of bamboo waste materials and other supplementary waste materials that are currently not being put into good use.

The economics of bamboo for commercial energy production require a thorough assessment of the cost, margins and the need for huge biomass stock. With charcoal production expected to be the main source of energy for rural communities, bamboo charcoal and briquettes have a good potential to contribute to the energy demands as well as the rural economy. Bamboo pellets production for industrial combustion is still in its infant stage due to the limited technologies and biomass stock; however, there is high potential for a shift in the demand for bamboo pellets due to the rising cost of electricity for industries in many African countries.

The workshop was deemed relevant by participants and expressed the need for further engagements and research on bamboo for bioenergy, plantation establishment and formulation and implementation of policies. Constructive remarks and comments from the workshop will feed into policy recommendations to be shared with government agencies and other related institutions working on bamboo and energy. Further engagements with key actors will continue in order to facilitate the development of innovation systems and favorable policy environments that will drive the bamboo bioenergy agenda in Africa.

By Daniel Kweitsu Obloni, INBAR.

This article was produced by INBAR and the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA). FTA is the world’s largest research for development program to enhance the role of forests, trees and agroforestry in sustainable development and food security and to address climate change. CIFOR leads FTA in partnership with Bioversity International, CATIE, CIRAD, INBAR, ICRAF and TBI. FTA’s work is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.

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  • Tamanu trees making money in arid Wonogiri, new study shows

Tamanu trees making money in arid Wonogiri, new study shows

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Bees gather on organic honeycomb in West Kalimantan. Photo by L. McHugh/CIFOR

The tamanu tree (Calophyllum inophyllum) has been helping humans out since prehistoric times.

Tamanu is native to tropical Asia, and was carried by Austronesians on their migrations to Oceania and Madagascar: the tree was as valuable to these voyagers as oak was to their European counterparts. Also known as mastwood, tamanu has been used by shipbuilders for millennia because it grows tall and strong in sandy, rocky areas.

In Polynesia, indigenous groups affectionately refer to the tamanu tree as “beauty leaf,” as they use the oil from the fruit kernel as a moisturiser and healing balm. They also use it as a hair grease and painkiller. These days, tamanu oil is used internationally in a range of skin and hair-care products.

Now, the fragrant, deep brown oil may serve another purpose: bioenergy. A mature tamanu grove can yield up to 20 tons of crude oil per hectare each year. In Wonogiri district of Central Java, Indonesia, a new study shows that cultivating tamanu for bioenergy on degraded land can achieve multiple benefits for farmers while restoring the land, as well as helping to reduce the country’s reliance on fossil fuels.

Read more: Integrating bioenergy and food production on degraded landscapes in Indonesia for improved socioeconomic and environmental outcomes

Beyond oil palm

Indonesia has pledged to increase its biodiesel and bioethanol consumption to 30 percent and 20 percent respectively, of total energy consumption by 2025. However current levels of biofuel production are far from meeting these targets, and boosting production at the scale required comes with its own environmental challenges.

So far, almost all of the biofuel produced in the country has come from oil palm. But land conversion from food cropping to oil palm for biodiesel has an impact on food security. In many cases oil palm plantations have encroached upon rainforests and peatlands, threatening biodiversity and releasing carbon into the atmosphere.

Fresh palm oil fruit piled up in West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo by N. Sujana/CIFOR

This is why researchers have begun exploring alternative bioenergy options, looking at species with multiple uses that can grow on degraded land on which other crops struggle. A recent study showed that there are around 3.5 million hectares of degraded land across Indonesia that would be suitable for growing at least one of five key biodiesel and biomass species, including tamanu. As well as bioenergy, these crops are capable of improving soil function and boosting biodiversity, thus playing an important role in restoring the land.

Infographic: Nyamplung (Calophyllum inophyllum): Alternative bioenergy crop and powerful ally for land restoration

Farmers hit the honeypot

Planting trees on degraded lands is difficult, and the returns are slow. Farmers need other sources of income, too, if tamanu cultivation for biofuel is to be sustainable.

In Wonogiri, scientists from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), whose work is part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), together with the Center for Forest Biotechnology and Tree Improvement Research and Development (CFBTI) and the Korean National Institute of Forest Science (NIFOS) sought to find out if the figures add up in the farmers’ favor.

They collected data from 20 farmers who grow tamanu on degraded land (which locals call nyamplung). The farmers intercrop the tree with maize, rice and peanuts, and make use of it in honey production.

The researchers found that while the rice and peanuts were not profitable, and the maize was only marginally so, farmers grew them anyway to feed their families. The big money, however, lay in honey production, which was almost 300 times more profitable than maize, said CIFOR scientist Syed Rahman. “We were all surprised to see just how profitable it was,” he added.

The results suggest that tamanu can be grown sustainably as part of an agroforestry system that also utilises honey production and subsistence crops in the area. What is needed now, says CFBTI senior scientist and professor Budi Leksono, is for the market for biofuels to be developed further to create economies of scale.

“The market for nyamplung oil is not really developed yet,” said Leksono. “But we’re anticipating an energy crisis, and [by doing this work now] we are preparing for the plantations of the future.”

However, the policy around this needs to be designed extremely carefully, cautioned Rahman. “Because it’s potentially so profitable,” he explained, “the risk is that people will expand this system to forestland, too.” He added that careful constraints must be applied to ensure it is cultivated only on degraded and underutilized lands.

The implications are exciting. As CIFOR senior scientist Himlal Baral noted, while national and global interests and commitments for forest landscape restoration are increasing, success so far has been limited by a lack of solid business cases or financial viability. “In order for funding to flow into landscape restoration, it needs to be profitable,” he said.

Tamanu-based systems may well offer a compelling case for restoration that is worth everybody’s while.

By Monica Evans, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.

This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.

This research was supported by the CIFOR Bioenergy project funded by NIFoS (National Institute of Forest Science, South Korea).

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  • Integrating bioenergy and food production on degraded landscapes in Indonesia for improved socioeconomic and environmental outcomes

Integrating bioenergy and food production on degraded landscapes in Indonesia for improved socioeconomic and environmental outcomes

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Growing bioenergy crops on degraded and underutilized land is a promising solution to meet the requirement for energy security, food security, and land restoration. This paper assesses the socioeconomic and environmental benefits of agroforestry systems based on nyamplung (tamanu) (Calophyllum inophyllum L.) in the Wonogiri district of Central Java, Indonesia. Data were collected through field observations and focus group discussions involving 20 farmers who intercrop nyamplung with maize, rice, and peanuts and utilize the species in honey production. Calculating each crop’s net present value (NPV) demonstrates that when grown as monocultures, staple crops rice and peanuts lead to negative profitability, while maize generates only a marginal profit; yet honey production utilizing nyamplung produces a NPV nearly 300 times greater than maize. However, when utilizing nyamplung, honey is also the commodity most sensitive to decreases in production, followed by nyamplung peanut and nyamplung rice combinations. While decreases in production have little effect on the NPVs of rice, peanuts, and maize, these annual crops can only be cultivated for a maximum of 6 years within the nyamplung’s 35-year cycle, due to canopy closure after this time. Nyamplung-based agroforestry systems can provide economic, social, and environmental gains on different scales. However, when considering the high profit potential of nyamplung combined with honey production, further research is needed to improve and develop bee husbandry practices so this becomes a viable option for local farmers.

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  • Nyamplung (Calophyllum inophyllum): Alternative bioenergy crop and powerful ally for land restoration

Nyamplung (Calophyllum inophyllum): Alternative bioenergy crop and powerful ally for land restoration

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This infographic looks at biofuels, bioenergy, degraded land and land rehabilitation through the alternative crop nyamplung.

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  • Bioenergy Production on Degraded Land: Landowner Perceptions in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia

Bioenergy Production on Degraded Land: Landowner Perceptions in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia

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Bioenergy production from degraded land provides an opportunity to secure a new renewable energy source to meet the rapid growth of energy demand in Indonesia while turning degraded land into productive landscape. However, bioenergy production would not be feasible without landowner participation. This study investigates factors affecting landowners’ preferences for bioenergy production by analyzing 150 landowners with fire experience in Buntoi village in Central Kalimantan using Firth’s logistic regression model. Results indicated that 76% of landowners preferred well-known species that have a readily available market such as sengon (Albizia chinensis (Osb.) Merr.) and rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis Müll.Arg.) for restoration on degraded land. Only 8% of preferred nyamplung (Calophyllum inophyllum L.) for bioenergy production; these particular landowners revealed a capacity to handle the uncertainty of the bioenergy market because they had additional jobs and income, had migrated from Java where nyamplung is prevalent, and preferred agricultural extension to improve their technical capacity. These results contribute to identifying key conditions for a bottom-up approach to bioenergy production from degraded land in Indonesia: a stable bioenergy market for landowners, application of familiar bioenergy species, and agricultural extension support for capacity building.

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  • Is bamboo a sustainable alternative for bioenergy production in Indonesia?

Is bamboo a sustainable alternative for bioenergy production in Indonesia?

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For thousands of years, people in Indonesia have used bamboo for a huge range of purposes. It is a ready source of food, fibre, firewood and construction material, and its abundance and availability has earned it the moniker of “timber of the poor.”

Now, scientists are exploring its potential in another critical realm: energy production and restoration of degraded land.

Energy demand in Indonesia has increased significantly in recent years, as a result of population growth, urbanization and economic development. The government is also working to up its energy provision from renewable sources, in line with its commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions under the international Paris Agreement on climate change. As a country with a rich biomass base, bioenergy seems an obvious port of call.

Watch: Integrating bioenergy and landscape restoration in the tropics: the key to a sustainable future

However, growing crops for bioenergy is not without its risks and tradeoffs. At present, Indonesia’s biofuel comes chiefly from oil palm, which has spurred widespread deforestation, peatland drainage and many other grave social and environmental impacts. So, say researchers from Australia’s RMIT University and the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), it is crucial to start looking for other species that can provide sustainable supplies of biomass for energy production, without compromising food security or unduly affecting the wider landscape.

And that is where bamboo comes in, said RMIT and CIFOR researcher Roshan Sharma in a just-published opinion piece for the journal Sustainability. The fast-growing, perennial plant grows well on degraded land with minimal water or fertilizer input, and also thrives when planted in combination with other crops in forestry and agroforestry systems. What is more, there’s no need to chop the whole stand down and start again when it’s time to harvest: once mature (after around three to four years), the crop can be systematically thinned every year, and this may actually increase its productivity over time.

Bamboo cultivation can also be a “powerful ally” in restoration processes, say the co-authors. Its extensive root systems help to control erosion and retain water, while its copious leaf litter contributes significantly to soil fertility. Because it grows fast, it quickly creates habitats for enhanced biodiversity, and sequesters carbon in the process. What’s more, points out CIFOR scientist and contributing author Himlal Baral, the financial benefits of cultivating bamboo for bioenergy make restoration a much more economically viable prospect, which will be crucial for scaling it up.

Read more: Integrating bioenergy and landscape restoration in the tropics: the key to a sustainable future

Villagers transport bamboo with a small boat in Selimbau, Lake Sentarum, West Kalimantan, Indonesia. CIFOR/Ramadian Bachtiar


Another advantage of generating bioenergy from bamboo is that it allows for decentralized energy production, say the scientists. Indonesia is made up of thousands of islands, many of which are not connected to the national power grid: according to Jaya Wahono, co-author  and chief executive of Clean Power Indonesia (CPI), there are around 12,500 villages across the country that don’t have reliable power. Diesel is imported in drums to many of these places and used to power generators, but it’s expensive and unreliable, which limits options for economic development, says Wahono.

As such, CPI has set up pilot bamboo power plants on the remote Mentawai islands, with considerable success: they’ve brought reliable electricity to 1,200 households in three villages, each of which has their own power plant. Bamboo harvesting provides jobs, and also allows farmers to diversify their income streams, reducing their vulnerability to crop failure and helping them adapt to climate change.

Wahono says CPI is now keen to replicate the model across Indonesia. Since bamboo cultivation and use is already a familiar aspect of everyday life, they hope that locals will be willing and able to participate in bamboo-based bioenergy production right across the archipelago.

Bamboo plantations will need to be carefully managed, notes Baral, as they can pose a threat as an invasive species which can displace surrounding vegetation. It will also be important to ensure bamboo is cultivated on degraded and under-utilized land, so it doesn’t displace food crops or cause clear-felling of native vegetation while reducing the risk of invasiveness.

According to Sharma, the research team’s next step will be “to explore how much local bamboo is available in Indonesia, identify sites for possible bamboo plantations, and study the economic feasibility of producing bamboo by farmers and the economics of land restoration using bamboo.”

Read more: FTA at GLF Bonn

By Monica Evans, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.

This research is part of the CIFOR Bioenergy project funded by NIFoS (National Institute of Forest Science, South Korea) and the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) with financial support from the CGIAR Trust Fund.

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  • Integrating bioenergy and food production on degraded landscapes in Indonesia

Integrating bioenergy and food production on degraded landscapes in Indonesia

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Energy demand in Indonesia is increasing rapidly, by 43% between 2005 and 2016. Indonesia thus relies on imported fuel (27%). Around 16.8 mill ha of land in Indonesia is severely or highly severely degraded. Restoration is very costly, ranging from approximately US$250 to 3000/ha. Biofuel species such as nyamplung (Calophyllum inophyllum) could be used to restore around 5.7 million hectares, at a relatively low cost.

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  • Nyamplung's biofuel potential could support landscape restoration in Indonesia

Nyamplung’s biofuel potential could support landscape restoration in Indonesia

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Nyamplung grows in a bioenergy trial in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo by Catriona Croft-Cusworth/CIFOR

Research is aiming to demonstrate methods of bioenergy production that do not compete with food production and environmental conservation, but contribute to them.

Scientists from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), the Korean National Institute of Forest Science (NIFOS) and Indonesia’s University of Muhammadiyah Palangkaraya (UMP) are currently conducting research through a collaborative research project to identify the most promising and productive bioenergy crops suited to degraded and underutilized lands.

Biofuel plantations could be central to meeting landscape restoration targets in Indonesia, while also helping the country to meet growing energy demand.

The total area under scrutiny in the research project is a 7.2-million hectare tract of mostly degraded land in Central Kalimantan province, which has been largely devastated by forest fires and conversion to agricultural and mining activities. More than 40 percent of residents in the province do not have access to electricity and rely on woody biomass for cooking fuel.

Indonesia’s Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, regional and local level governments jointly implement the Bioenergi Lestari (Sustainable Bioenergy) program to establish bioenergy plantations on 62,500 hectares of land.

“Overall, Indonesia aims to meet 23 percent of its growing energy demand from new and renewable energy sources by 2025 with a 10 percent share from bioenergy,” said Himlal Baral, a scientist with CIFOR’s climate change, energy and low carbon research team.

“We can now share preliminary but promising results, which have isolated specific trees and crops that can provide energy, food security while simultaneously restoring land.”

Scientists undertook their research in Buntoi village, Pulang Pisau district, where the population of 2,700 people was largely dependent on rubber plantations and subsistence agriculture until 2015 when fires swept through destroying forests and peatlands.

“The research plot is a flooded area in the rainy season and very dried out in the dry season, leading to fires,” said Siti Maimunah, dean of the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry at UMP.

A community member plants on a trial bioenergy plot in Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo by Mokhamad Edliadi/CIFOR

After planting tree trials, the scientists tentatively identified nyamplung (Calophyllum inophyllum) as the most adaptive bioenergy tree species for degraded peatlands in the area, their report states. The nyamplung grew best when it was planted in a mixed agroforestry setting, rather than monoculture.

“This is a win-win solution – growing biofuel using an agroforestry system can be a better land use strategy considering its potential to enhance farm production and income, biodiversity and support sustainable development,” Baral said. “Planting biofuel on degraded land can avoid compromising agricultural production and related negative environmental consequences.”

Planting trees for biofuel can help offset greenhouse gas emissions. In the case of the nyamplung only the seeds are collected to produce biodiesel and replace fossil fuels, which means the tree remains in the landscape providing other environmental services.

“Our objective is not intended only to restore burned peat land with a strictly biofuel production approach, but to enhance it with appropriate policies concerning environment and development goals,” said Syed Rahman, a researcher with CIFOR.

Biofuel production can help offset the high costs involved in meeting such land restoration goals as the Bonn Challenge, an international commitment made during UN Climate talks in 2014 to restore 150 million hectares of the world’s deforested and degraded land by 2020 and 350 million hectares by 2030.

Landscape restoration is at the forefront of national agendas as countries implement efforts to meet UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 15 on life on land, by 2030.

By Julie Mollins, originally published by CIFOR’s Forests News.

For more information on this topic, please contact Himlal Baral at [email protected].

This research was supported by the National Institute of Forest Science (NIFOS) and the Republic of Korea.

This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.

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  • From seeds to sales: A comprehensive look at the potential of bioenergy crops

From seeds to sales: A comprehensive look at the potential of bioenergy crops

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Homes stand on stilts in Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo by Icaro Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

Balancing environmental responsibility and rapid development – as well as the energy and manpower needed to keep up with the pace – is a major challenge facing Indonesia.

Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) Senior Scientist Himlal Baral has led a research project focusing on this ‘food-energy-environment trilemma’ since 2015. He and his team are examining bioenergy – energy derived from living organisms, such as trees and herbaceous plants – as part of the array of components needed to solve the challenge.

If the bioenergy sector plants its roots in sustainable agriculture methods, it can simultaneously help achieve other national targets like food security and greenhouse gas emissions reductions. Rather than growing the sector through the conversion of healthy ecosystems and arable land, the project seeks to establish a new approach of using Indonesia’s degraded lands for bioenergy production, thereby transforming them back into profitable landscapes.

In light of the government’s goal to increase the amount of renewable energy in the national energy mix from 6% in 2005 to 31% by 2030 – also aiding it’s program to procure 35,000 MW of electricity by 2030 – Baral has presented on his inquiries to the Indonesian House of Regional Representatives, who with interest requested a map of the country’s degraded landscapes, marking which biomass plants would work well where.

This has raised a few main questions for the team to examine, seeing the project extended to the end of 2020 as they continue to research the answers and gather the information the government needs. Which species are most promising for such a goal? How can biofuel and food production be achieved hand-in-hand? What are the impacts of bioenergy production on multiple ecosystem services?

Read more: What’s holding back biodiesel industry growth in Indonesia?

A man drives a boat through a bioenergy project area in Sumatra. Photo by Icaro Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

Step one is to figure out which species are best suited for various environments, in terms of carbon storage, growth and yield, and sustainability. This means testing out different species – woody biomass species such as Gliricidia sepium and Calliandra calothyrsus; oil seed trees such as Calophyllum inophyllumand Pongamia pinnata – and in various settings.

Some grow and yield more in waterlogged areas as opposed to dry; some thrive in agroforested or mixed settings while others require monoculture. Some store more carbon above-ground while others, below; some have positive effects on surrounding water resources and biodiversity, while others could cause harm.

Once certain species are identified as solid candidates for certain environments, the next step is to convert them into energy. For the scientists, this means calculating greenhouse gas emissions of their conversions as well as all the emissions involved in getting the bioenergy into the market.

And then there’s the market itself. In order to keep more benefits in local communities rather than carried off to others in the value chain, the project also looks at bioenergy business models for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), potentially involving partnerships with larger businesses and state-owned-enterprises. Investigations into governance and land tenure issues will also seek to give producers proper land security, to better incentivize good land-use practices.

Read more: Growing energy and restoring land: Potentials of bioenergy production from degraded and underutilized land in Indonesia

There are a number of challenges that will need to be avoided and addressed, such as keeping bioenergy from competing with food for land use, which can increase food prices and drive up food insecurity if bioenergy crops win out. Poorly planned production can lead to further degradation of forests; use of insecticides and fertilizers can harm the environment and contaminate water sources; and without proper governance, land tenure conflicts can increase.

But with the right crops in the right places, and the right business models to help locals hold onto the profits, bioenergy just may have the power to lift landscapes out of degradation and into the realm of national necessities.

By Gabrielle Lipton, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.

For more information on this topic, please contact Himlal Baral at [email protected]

This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors. 

This research was supported by the National Institute of Forest Science (NIFOS) and the Republic of Korea.

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  • Bioenergy development in Central Kalimantan: Current research findings and potential areas for future study

Bioenergy development in Central Kalimantan: Current research findings and potential areas for future study

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  • Stable, robust policies and governmental support at both national and local levels, are needed to promote successful bioenergy research and its application, and avoid repeating past failures in developing bioenergy crops. The potential of local tree species should be considered in bioenergy project development; in particular, consideration should be given to the ability of each species to adapt to typical environments such as highly acidic peatlands, nutrient-poor soils and soils with high levels of organic matter.
  • The participation of local communities is of paramount importance, as well as the consideration of local preferences and context; by introducing community-relevant species, familiarity with such species and their potential uses is also increased.
  • Further study is necessary on local bioenergy species that are suitable for peatland restoration to answer the following questions: What concrete actions would allow a provincial government-driven working group to further develop sustainable bioenergy within Central Kalimantan? What would an appropriate business model for bioenergy production look like? and which agroforestry systems have the potential to combine bioenergy crops with other-purpose crops (e.g. food, aromatics and medicines).

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