Making it Happen Box 4.1 Fuelling Uganda’s green economy
Biofuels Vital Graphics demonstrates the potential of biofuels to deliver a range of energy and development objectives as a cornerstone of
global green economy. But it will only be possible to secure their place in the green economy if a number of safeguards are implemented at both national- policy and local-project levels, to avoid creating any additional environmental or social problems.
Biofuels are not created equal, and the sustainability of the bioenergy sector depends on complex and interrelated choices which are often region and even site-specific. Awareness of potential problems and innovative solutions creating multiple co- benefits are key to informed decision making.
Effective policies are critical to developing a sustainable biofuels sector, providing for sound investments and the most suitable technology. Technological development must strive for optimal resource use and allocation, whilst minimising waste and inefficiencies, ultimately
economic efficiency. Policies need to be science- based and cross-sectoral, reflecting a long-term, life-cycle approach along the entire supply chain.
Recently Uganda has outlined its national strategy for bioenergy to contribute to increasing the renewable- energy mix from 4 to 16 percent by 2017. Alongside the energy challenge, the country faces a number of other difficult tasks including loss of ecosystems and systemic low rural employment. Ugandan officials have pointed out that in addition to serving as a new source of renewable energy, growing crops for bioenergy can help tackle unemployment and bring more cash to often impoverished rural communities. At the same time, biofuel production could reduce the country’s dependence on imported fossil fuels, and help tackle serious energy shortages. These benefits, of course, can only be harnessed if safeguards are implemented, for example to protect forests as the country has already lost 65 percent of its forests over the past 40 years.
Several biofuel crops have been identified, including sugarcane, maize, oil palm and jatropha. A suitability assessment of these crops illustrates that the potential output from certain biofuel feedstocks is high. Several projects are underway to help the country meet their target.
To reduce the potential loss of biodiversity and related ecosystem services which this new development may entail, measures are needed to
Pressures on Ugandan forests Energy demand
Forest area Million of hectares
Wood fuel production Thousands of cubic metres 5 000
35 4 000 30
25 1990 1995 2000 2005 2008
Sources: FAO and Mongabay statistics database, 2010. Figure 4.1 Pressures on Ugandan forests
designate areas where the crops can be grown safely. Mapping of areas of high biodiversity and High Value Conservation Areas (HVCAs) should go hand-in-hand with surveys of crop/land suitability before contracts are awarded for bioenergy projects..