As a visitor drives across the plains of the department of Valle del Cauca in southwestern Colombia, green carpets dominate the view: sugarcane fields that have been here since the area got its name.
First came sugar. For four centuries, it was the main sugarcane product in Brazil. But since the 1970s sugarcane has grown and diversified as a source of energy: ethanol, electricity and biogas.
The number of victims of serious burns, some fatal, has increased in Brazil. Without money to buy cooking gas, the price of which rose 30 percent this year, many poor families resort to ethanol and people are injured in household accidents.
Currently 30 square kilometres of Lake Victoria, which stretches to approximately 375 kilometres and links Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda, is covered with the evasive water hyacinth that has paralysed transport in the area.
But scientists are harvesting and fermenting the weed, and one intrepid chemistry teacher has built a business out of it.
With the increased frequency and severity of extreme weather events adversely affecting agricultural outputs and farmers’ incomes, commercial crop insurance has been touted as the solution for vulnerable farmers all over the world. Financial and farm interests have been promoting US crop insurance as the solution. It is instructive to consider lessons from the 2012 drought.
Following a promising start, Brazil's dream of positioning ethanol in the global market on an equal standing with petroleum-based fuels is hindered by new and old challenges.