Forests, green covers, perennial grasses, biodiverse farms, natural vegetation, food crops, rotational management, carbon farming, regenerative agriculture, permaculture, carbon sequestration.  It’s all this or deserts. Its bioeconomy or fossil energy?. Researchers sometimes lose the focus and don’t recognize the dramatic situation we are facing. Yes, you can even have ecologists who suggest we shouldn’t grow more trees or harvest them or promote renewables. They ultimately promote more fossil energy and a “no change” scenario. Typical reasons include: a) fear to land grabbing b) threats to existing and degraded biodiversity and habitats c) deforestation of current forests d) soil impacts of biofuel agriculture

However, we know regenerative agriculture can be used for biomass crops, trees, perennial grasses and reasonable management of actual degraded forests. The implementation of soil amendments for carbon sequestration, biodiverse plantations, afforestation with more polycultures, use of nitrogen fixation in legume trees and fodder options during land regeneration and many other solutions are just compatible with bioenergy crops.

While most fossil based economic sectors are facing a big pressure after Paris agreements and most policy makers urged our leaders to decrease the use of fossil energy and promote bioeconomy, energy efficiency, a lesser usage of fertilizers and pesticides producing healthier food and replace the large impacting and traditional energy approaches to promote a greener world, some groups still insist there is a big concern if we plant more trees. The debate focused on some previous fears such as land grabbing and food production, Believe it or not, some ecologist are not considering the reality we have where soil degradation, land desertification, marginal lands and farmers’s abandonment or previous deforestation are dominating the world.

soil desertification bioeconomy

 

A greener planet or a desert? A larger bioeconomy or a fossil based economy?

There is clear agreement that land area with suitable and non suitable lands for agriculture are not going to be used for food production as productivity growth ande demography and increasing food access in poor countries are  a global dominating trend. Land uses for food have not increased in past 60 years and food security will not relying on a larger food production area. So what should be done with this area? Are we going to wait for pulp companies to grow eucalyptus? are we expecting that other billion hectares will be cultivated or reforested? Are grasslands and pasture lands going to occupy these areas for meat? unlikely. What companies will do that? What policy makers and existing programs are showing evidence of new programs outside biomass and bioenergy or non-food production?: none. The truth is that no companies fund it as it is just not profitable enough and traditional timber, landscape maintenance or food production in these areas may result just too expensive or not profitable enough to make it happen. At least, not at the rate we need.  However we must have a greener world and there is consensus that tree planting or perennial agriculture may be the only answer but energy, bio products such as bio-cement, bioplastics, non-food and fiber products are likely to be demanded in particular if our end users replace fossil based products that are harming the environment. Bioenergy will have a key role in global decarbonization.

Mature technologies such as boilers, gasifiers, anaerobic digesters, charcoal and bio-coal processing facilities, biorefineries and several steam and thermal applications for domestic uses, industrial heating and biofuel production are possibly a clear way to attend these matters. And yes, there is a way to make it happen, finance it and produce high value added products coupled to decentralized energy solutions. So, yes, there is a way to use residues from several agriculture, forestry, food industries, pulp and paper and many other biobased activities that need sustainable ways, feedstock supply, logistic chains and that is all compatible with biomass crops or bioenergy plantations to produce straw, wood and other non-food products and fibers.

For more than a century, a few scientists have occasionally daydreamed of transforming much of the Sahara desert green, with a lush inland sea or vast tracts of farmland. Now researchers say they have actually found a way to make such a scheme work with forests across the desert–and to slow climate change in the process.

Desertification is the degradation of land in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, caused primarily by human activities and climatic variations. … Forest loss by constantly fiddling with nature in areas lith a dry climate (or eventual  and increasingly frequent drought periods), poor soils and high biotic pressure is often followed by desert formation. Biomass can be a solution.

Some clear evidence of what our group suggests is shown in the following videos.

This conflicting reality represents a real threat to Africa’s most important tropical rainforest, the Congo Basin. This unique ecosystem, contributes to biodiversity conservation, carbon storage and mitigates the effects of climate change. And while it remains largely untouched, it is slowly gnawed away by a growing population and demand for natural resources and farmland.

In an attempt to address these issues, the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) is working with the Belgian Royal Museum for Central Africa (RMCA) and Resources and Synergies Development (R&SD) to create tree plantations in previously deforested areas in northern DRC’s Tshopo province. These plantations will produce biomass to supply electricity to the neighboring communities, create new business opportunities and provide much needed jobs for local people.

 

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