Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN)

Managing arid- and semi-arid ecosystems: Competence platform on energy crop and agroforestry systems for arid and semi-arid ecosystems - Africa

The objective of this Competence Platform on Energy Crop and Agroforestry Systems for Arid and Semi-arid Ecosystems- Africa (COMPETE) is to stimulate bio-energy implementation in arid and semi-arid regions in Africa. COMPETE will establish a platform for policy dialogue and capacity building in the major multi- and bi-lateral funding organisations and key stakeholders throughout the bio-energy provision and supply chains.

As global fossil energy resources become constrained, bio-energy is emerging as a major potential resource to supply the energy services currently provided by these fossil fuels. The arid and semi-arid regions of Africa and Latin / South America have, in theory, very large areas of land (and associated water and human resources) 'available' for bio-energy production. However, the production of biomass for energy on the scales necessary to supply significant shares of national and global energy provision will result in very substantial impacts (positive and negative) on the ecosystems and cultures of these target regions. The protection of biodiversity, rural livelihoods and management of scarce water resources are critical considerations in any analysis of the potential for sustainable bio-energy provision in arid and semi-arid regions. Similarly, whilst modern bio-energy could contribute significantly to poverty alleviation in rural areas, the effects of changes to the supplies of natural resources and ownership of those resources must be an integral part of the development options proposed. Therefore, a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary, assessment of current land use, energy demand and technology innovation focused on Africa, will be carried out through COMPETE.

COMPETE will link implementation activities, policy development, trade, funding and South-South-EU cooperation. The improved knowledge of national and regional land use and technology options generated will provide the local and international partners with the basis for a complete assessment of social, environmental and economic impacts. Finally, all the outputs of COMPETE will be integrated into a carefully designed dissemination strategy developed through a dedicated Work Package which will ensure that the outputs are targeted where they will be most useful e.g. selected decision makers and stakeholders.

Project objectives

The Competence Platform on Energy Crop and Agroforestry Systems for Arid and Semi-arid Ecosystems - Africa (COMPETE) will bring together world-leading scientists, researchers, funders and practitioners from different fields and across the world to create a platform for discussion, knowledge exchange, policy and methodology development. It will use this concentrated expertise to provide strategic and practical guidance and tools on the provision of modern bio-energy for the sustainable and optimal usage of these special ecosystems.

The main objective of COMPETE is to identify pathways for the provision of bio-energy, which will:

  1. Improve the quality of life for the inhabitants e.g. poverty alleviation, value added activities, alternative means of income generation and providing options to reduce vulnerability whilst, in parallel;
  2. Aid the preservation of the critical functions of arid and semi-arid regions in Africa as intact ecosystems e.g. maintaining biodiversity and providing ecosystem services, and;
  3. Enhance the equitable exchange of knowledge between EU and developing countries in this critical area of activity
In order to achieve the primary objective (above), COMPETE has developed a number of sub-objectives (summarised in section 1). These sub-objectives represent the highly crosssectoral nature of bio-energy provision and the breadth and depth of the scientific and technological objectives that COMPETE will integrate into providing useful decision making and implementation tools.

The long-term provision of secure supplies of bio-energy will require the evaluation of a large range of inter-related factors within a comprehensive analytical framework and associated decision-making tools leading to a holistic policy development process. Factors, such as; the optimal and socially acceptable allocation of land between food, infrastructure, bio-energy and other uses; soil degradation; the impacts of, and on, climate change; water use; and, the potential for political conflict. These factors are closely linked to the problems that many regions in Africa are confronted with. A multi-sectoral cross-disciplinary approach is urgently needed to cope with these problems and the likely demands generated by high oil prices, and that reflects the emerging evidence base on ecosystem damage1 and tools for monitoring sustainability.

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