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ECOWAS Bio-energy Forum opens in Bamako

By Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS)
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BAMAKO, Mali, March 20, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- A three-day ECOWAS Bio-energy Forum is underway in the Malian capital, Bamako as part of efforts to support the development of regional and national bio-energy strategies to help Member States meet the energy needs of their people.

The Forum, organized by the ECOWAS Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE), based in Praia, Cape Verde in collaboration with partners, also seeks to create a vibrant and sustainable modern bio-energy sector that promotes economic growth and rural development.

Opening the forum on Monday, 19th March 2012, the Malian Minister of Mines, Energy and Water Resources, Honourable Habib Ouane, told participants that the high population growth rate of Member States posed a great challenge to the region's energy demand with serious health consequences.

He therefore urged Member States to take adequate steps to address the challenges through appropriate policies within the framework of the ECOWAS White Paper to promote the region's economic development.

The ECOWAS Commissioner for Infrastructure, Mr. Ebrima Njie, noted that the region continued to face major challenges in sustainable supply of energy services, despite its significant bio-energy resources.

The region, he said, has one of the lowest access rates of modern energy services, which inhabits the prospects for developing economic activities, enhancing food security and reducing poverty.

According to official statistics, 70 per cent of the region's overall energy demand comes from traditional biomass of wood and inefficiently produced charcoal.

Commissioner Njie said the over-dependence of the region's ever-growing populations on the natural forest contributed to environmental degradation, green house gas emissions, loss of ecosystems and desertification and, these in turn, impede food security and cause health problems.

He told participants that the ECOWAS Commission believes that energy access is the gateway to sustainable human development, without which regional integration and improvement of livelihood of Community citizens could not be realized.

Also speaking at the ceremony, the Executive Director of ECREEE, Mr. Mahama Kappiah, thanked donors and other collaborators for their generous contributions towards a successful forum.

He said the meeting would explore opportunities to increase access to modern bio-energy technologies and expressed the hope that the cooperation with partners would yield sustainable projects in the ECOWAS region.

The forum is being attended by stakeholders from the region's Ministries of Energy, Agriculture and the Environment as well as observers from the Global Bio-Energy Partnership (GBEP).