African and German researchers launched the first pan-African expert network for food and non-food biomass in Bonn, Germany, on 12 July 2017. The network aims at ensuring that food security and environmental sustainability are not compromised in the development of new biomass uses. It will thus help to strengthen the emerging African bioeconomies. Biomass is any degradable substance that is derived from plants or animals and is thus renewable.
Under the umbrella of the BiomassWeb project, German and African scientists have addressed the question of how biomass can be used more effectively and efficiently in Africa. “Africa, especially south of the Sahara, needs biomass both as a source of food and as a source of energy and industrial raw materials,” explains Dr. Manfred Denich, Director of the BiomassWeb project at the Center for Development Research at the University of Bonn (ZEF). In view of the scarcity of agricultural land, this is hardly possible at the same time. “In order to provide solutions to this problem, we need an improved exchange of knowledge and experience, as well as discussions with local partners. Scientists, politicians, businesses and civil society must work together”, says Denich.
According to estimates by the United Nations, almost two billion people will live in sub-Saharan Africa by 2050. This is almost a doubling compared to 2010. Considering the large population growth and the already noticeable impact of climate change, most countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are not able to produce enough food. Thus, researchers in the BiomassWeb project are developing methods to improve food production and minimize post-harvest losses, such as spoilage. They also explore ways in which innovative processing techniques that can increase the income of small-scale farmers which makes them less prone to crises. Thus, inedible manioc peels can serve as a substrate for mushroomcultivation which achieve good prices on local markets. The same applies to the further processing of plantains to flour, and maize residue to bio-oil or syngas.
As a next step, the Center for Development Research (ZEF), together with the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), has set up the first pan-African expert network on food and non-food biomass. The core of the network is the interactive internet portal www.biomassnet.org. More than 80 experts from Germany and Africa met at Bonn, including representatives of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB), Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) as well as representatives from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe), the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR), the University of Ibadan, and the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA). The latter organization will host the network in the future.
The network is aimed at experts from science, policy and practice. It is open to users from all over the world and all disciplines interested in biomass in Africa. “In particular, the network is supposed to promote the exchange of knowledge and information on the African continent,” says ZEF project leader Dr. Christine Schmitt. “This platform is intended to initiate new collaborations, approaches and innovative solutions for the African biomass sector beyond the boundaries of sectors and traditional expertise.”
BiomassWeb and BiomassNet
Biomassnet.org was developed within the BMBF funded project BiomassWeb (funding program GlobE) at ZEF and FARA. In addition to 15 international and African partners, five scientific and private stakeholders are involved in Germany, including the University of Bonn with the ZEF, the Institute for Food and Resource Economics (ILR) and the Institute for Crop Science and Conservation (INRES).
Print (in German)
General Anzeiger, 18. Juli 2017
Online (in German)
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Online (in English)
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Bioenergy Insight, 01.08.2017
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The first pan-African expert network on food and non-food biomass has been launched by Germany’s Center for Development Research (ZEF) and the Ghana-based Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA).
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