In “A New Hope for Africa
,” published in last month’s issue of Nature
, authors Lee R. Lynd and Jeremy Woods assert that the international development community should “cut with the beneficial edge of bioenergy’s double-edged sword” to enhance food security in Africa. According to Lynd and Woods, Africa’s severe food insecurity is a “legacy of three decades of neglect for agricultural development.” Left out of the Green Revolution in the 1960s, the region was flooded with cheap food imports from developed nations while local agricultural sectors remained underdeveloped. With thoughtful management, bioenergy production on marginal lands unfit for edible crops may yield several food security benefits, such as increased employment, improved agricultural infrastructure, energy democratization, land regeneration, and reduced conflict, write the authors.
The technological advancements of second-generation biofuels may ease the zero-sum tension between food production and bioenergy in the future, writes Duncan Graham-Rowe in his article “Beyond Food Versus Fuel,” also appearing last month in Nature. Graham-Rowe notes that current first-generation biofuel technologies, such as corn and sugar cane, contribute to rising food prices, require intensive water and nitrogen inputs, and divert land from food production by way of profitability and physical space. There is some division between second-generation biofuel proponents: some advocate utilizing inedible parts of plants already produced, while others consider fast-growing, dedicated energy crops (possibly grown on polluted soil otherwise unfit for human use) a more viable solution – either has the potential to reduce demand for arable land, says Graham-Rowe. “Advanced generations of biofuels are on their way,” he writes, it is just a matter of time before their kinks are worked out “through technology, careful land management, and considered use of resources.”