|Bioconversion of Organic Residues for Rural Communities (UNU, 1979)|
|Environmental goals for microbial bioconversion in rural communities|
Environmental, agricultural, and industrial goals of rural development are not always in harmony, as shown by the mixed results from building the Aswan Dam. The resulting environmental impact, once the numerous waste conversions discussed in this conference are widely applied, also requires consideration.
No doubt we must expect a selective effect on crop choice and land use. Upgrading the protein content of cassava, for instance, may lead to quantitative and qualitative changes in animal raising practices. In addition, and more important, effects must be expected from successful large-scale industrial bioconversions. As this industry moves from the production of fine chemicals into making bulk chemicals as substitutes for oil and petro-chemicals, the pressure on the land for growing the required carbohydrate substrates will increase competition for land that is used for food production. Thus, bioconversions may well bring about a second agricultural revolution with a new array of crops, products, and wastes that will affect rural ecology and provide a stimulus for further deforestation. This underlines the need for careful, multi-disciplinary assessment of pilot projects for their immediate and long-term ecological and social impact.
Against this background, training and education of the rural population becomes important not only to make the local bioconversions work, but also to make sure that conflicts between environmental and other goals are minimized. Recent developments in the media and telecommunications offer great promise for rescuing rural populations from their isolation from information. Whatever this may bring, the potential of these new tools of instruction should be fully exploited to introduce new instruments for survival and to perpetuate them by creating motivation through effective training and education.