Belfast-based chartered surveyor Michael Doran is heading up a group of scientists, academics and practitioners that could significantly influence land use in developing countries.
The group, from as far afield as Australia and Tanzania, aims to develop a tool-kit intended to help farmers in such countries decide whether to use their land to grow food or fuel.
Mr Doran is the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors representative to The Federation Internationale des Geometres (FIG), the international guild of surveyors with members in over 100 countries that has initiated the project. Under his leadership, the group will carry out the study before reporting back to FIG in April 2010.
The intention is then for the tool-kit to be adopted as part of a three-year project for application in sub-Saharan Africa.
Mr Doran said: “This project is a response by FIG to the challenges for poorer countries that have resulted from increased demand for plant-based liquid biofuels.
“Cereal prices and therefore the price of staple food products such as maize, corn, wheat and rice have increased significantly in the past couple of years as a result of competition for ground between energy crops and food crops. Poorer countries have been struggling with these higher food prices.”
“The group will investigate the factors that influence the decisions of farmers to choose between energy crop or food crop use, before developing the tool-kit that is intended to help guide decision-making. This is an extremely important issue for poorer counties so it is therefore an exciting project to be closely involved with,” he adds.