Haiti's Rebuild May Be Biochar's Big Breakthough


Here's a Haitian model of the "Lucia" stove that turns biomass into biochar, and cooks dinner, too. Photo credit WorldStoves via tweetphoto.

Biochar, the "co product" of burning wood or agricultural waste in a pyrolitic (oxygen free) environment, has garnered both praise and criticism for its possibilities as a CO2 sequestration tool. While pilot biochar sequestration and crop improvement projects abound, in Haiti a small number of activists including World Stoves CEO Nathaniel Mulcahy, got in gear post earthquake to help the country rebuild and grow and cook its own food, and at the same time, show off biochar's winning qualities.

"The first thing to know about biochar is that it is a way of permanently removing CO2 greenhouse gas from the atmosphere. The carbon from biomass, when pyrolyzed, can remain in the soil for hundreds or thousands of years." - Victoria Kamsler, Chair, Biochar Offsets Group.

Larger adaptation of the "Lucia" stove will be given to hospitals and camps, probably (at first) burning pellets donated from the U.S. Photo via WorldStoves @ tweetphoto.
WorldStoves, a company that makes a number of pyrolitic stoves, has partnered with the NGO International Lifeline Fund and a private Haitian company to bring its "Lucia" stove designs to Haiti. In Haiti, the use of wood for charcoal for home cooking needs is widespread, which has led to a continuing cycle of deforestation and soil degredation. This problem isn't confined to areas affected by the quake, of course, but fuel needs have been exacerbated in the aftermath.

The partnership has set up a production center in Port-Au-Prince to make up to 2,000 of the stoves and distribute them.

The magic is in the efficiency
What makes the Lucia stove so magic is that a Haitian woman or man could cook for a five-person family using just about 300 grams of twigs, groundnut shells, rice husk or dung. On the ground in Haiti even such wastes as the rinds from the local chadeck (grapefruit-like) fruit have been used - three big rinds yielded 37 minutes of flame!

Goal #1 of the partnership is to distribute stoves to the hospitals, schools, orphanages and camps that have sprung up around Port-Au-Prince. Eventually, stoves will be distributed to individual families, and WorldStove hopes to establish a site that will commercially sell Lucia stoves at what they say is an affordable price to locals - stove and fuel prices are said to have skyrocketed since the quake, and over half a Haitian's daily salary can go to purchasing cooking fuel.

In addition, the hope is that eventually cutting down trees for charcoal will go down as the stoves can use so many other biomass forms for energy, while the biochar left in the stoves after cooking can be used as a soil conditioner. In addition, iif biochar is included in the UN's Certified Emission Reductions (CER) and Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) schemes, creating it in cookstoves and sequestering it in soil could help Haiti economically as well.

Read more about Haiti at TreeHugger

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Help For Haiti Earthquake Aftermath. Giving Green
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Tags: Agriculture | Haiti