By Geena Paul

What is the link between biofuel and women power? A lot. If you read a recent United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report, you will realise the hazards of rushing for biofuel in several nations.

According to the FAO report, converting agricultural lands for biofuel production could force women out of the lands used for farming, and harm their ability to provide food.

Concerned over this, FAO has called upon nations to look into developing biofuel strategies that will benefit rather than harm the women living in rural areas.

The increased use of natural resources such as water and firewood for biofuel production means less of those resources will be available for use by women, who already have to travel long distances for collecting such materials.

The FAO urged nations to further examine the socio economic effects of liquid biofuel production on men and women.

It also urges biofuel development strategy that is both environmentally sustainable and pro poor, and which will protect the agricultural activities of small farmers, especially women.

In 2007, UN special rapporteur Jean Ziegler had called for a five year moratorium on biofuels after warning that converting crops such as maize, wheat and sugar into fuels was driving up the prices of food, land and water.

Ziegler noted that while the argument for biofuels is legitimate in terms of energy efficiency and combating climate change, the effect of transforming food crops such as wheat and maize into agricultural fuel is absolutely catastrophic for hungry people and will negatively impact the realisation of the right to food.

Again, the increased production of biofuels has been cited as one of the reasons for the global surge in food prices.

In the observations presented by Andrea Rossi and Yianna Lambrou in their research paper titled Gender and Equity Issues in Liquid Biofuels Production , they have identified certain measures in terms of government pro poor policy making by prioritising small farmers and women and providing them access to land, capital, and technology but at the same time counting the overall empowerment of women.

The report also talks about the potential degradation of agro biodiversity with the replacement of local crops with monoculture energy crop plantations and also could pose a threat to knowledge and traditional skills of local farmers and women in particular, who are traditionally responsible in most part of farming.

As far as depletion of natural resources is concerned, the report reads: If biofuel production competes, either directly or indirectly, for water and firewood supplies, it could make such resources less readily available for household use. This would force women, who are traditionally responsible, in most developing countries, for collecting water and firewood, to travel longer distances thus reducing the time available to earn income from other sources.