Workshop on Biofuels and Food Security Interactions

Nov 19, 2014 - 12:00 am EST to Nov 20, 2014 - 12:00 pm EST

The purpose of the workshop is to explore current and future interactions between biofuels and food security, and elaborate learnings from analysis and field experience relevant for project developers, researchers and policy-makers. The workshop is organized around a six discussion topics and is designed to encourage discussion among participants. We aim to identify where consensus lies regarding key barriers, gaps and opportunities related to (a) the assessment of biofuel-food security interactions and (b) recommendations for future research and implementation.

The workshop is organized around a set of discussion topics informed by analyses and experiences from case studies. The intention is not only to look back but also forward and generate: an assessment of the current interplay between biofuels and food security and recommendations for future directions relevant for researchers and decision-makers. Participants and speakers include representatives from: academia and research labs, international organizations active in the field such as IADB, ICRAF and IFPRI, and national government organizations, private sector and other parties that can contribute insight and experience.

Participants will review and discuss recent research and case studies related to each of the six topics below to develop an understanding of what is known versus what is unknown or remains contentious, and will then generate conclusions and recommendations to address identified research priorities.

The topics are:

  1. Economic security and development
    How do biofuels affect rural incomes, poverty (and income distribution), employment, investment and agricultural development? How do biofuels interact with infrastructure investments? What are the implications for food security?

  2. Energy security
    What are the linkages between energy security and the four dimensions of food security, and the underlying causes of food insecurity? How can biofuels interact with the energy needed for food production, processing, storage (food losses) and nutritional value? How do biofuels affect energy costs and price volatility? What are potential costs and benefits in terms of balance of payments and opportunity costs associated with energy imports?

  3. Environmental security
    What are linkages between biofuels and the environmental conditions necessary for sustained provision of food and clean water? What have we learned about biofuels, land productivity, and changes in land cover and management?

  4. Biofuels and food price volatility
    What are linkages between biofuel policies and food price volatility? How do biofuels affect food markets and consumption – and what are the health effects?

  5. Institutional aspects, innovation and consequences of inaction
    What are the key interactions among “governance” and institutional capacities, technological innovations, biofuels and food security? Are there “pre-requisite” conditions that must be considered to address food security concerns and develop biofuels? What can be learned from experience to date? What are the consequences of inaction, including interactions among food security, bioenergy and climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies?

  6. Integration and cross-cutting issues
    What are the interactions among diversifying value streams, market substitutions, investment risk, and food availability? How can integration of biofuels within food supply systems beneficially impact food security? Productivity improvement (particularly relevant in Topics 1, 3, and 5)

Structure of the workshop

To help bring participants to a common starting point, each discussion topic will be elaborated in a topical brief (approximately 2 pages each) that will provide recent research findings and key references. The briefs will be posted in advance of the workshop for perusal and comments. Break-out sessions and a professional facilitator will be employed to enable constructive contributions from all participants. A final plenary session will help integrate lessons and develop recommendations. More information on the program and speakers will be posted on this website in the coming weeks.

We anticipate that a synthesis of the workshop outputs will be submitted to a journal.

A scientific committee is actively planning the workshop:

  • Glaucia Souza, University of São Paolo, Brazil
  • Helen Watson, University of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa
  • Jeremy Woods, Imperial College, UK
  • Keith Kline, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, USA
  • Lee Lynd, Dartmouth College, USA
  • Navin Sharma, World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF)
  • Hoysall Chanakya, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India
  • Siwa Msangi, International Food Policy Research Institute

In addition to support from host institutions of the Scientific and Organizing Committees, the workshop is supported by the Climate KIC, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the World Agroforestry Centre, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), FAPESP Bioenergy Research Program BIOEN, Novozymes, and in-kind contributions by IFPRI and others.