Responsible adoption of biochar—fine-grained charcoal used as a soil supplement—could help alleviate the world’s rising CO2 problem. It’s no magic bullet, but it could go some way toward rebuilding soil fertility while sequestering carbon from the atmosphere. And some companies are now finding a unique opportunity to show biochar’s benefits while helping the victims of earthquake-ravaged Haiti.
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.
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.