Carbon Roots International

Photograph courtesy Carbon Roots International

Great Energy Challenge Innovator: Carbon Roots International

Project: Fighting deforestation and revitalizing soil for Haitian farmers

Location: Cap-Haitien, Haiti

Summary: Carbon Roots International (CRI) has launched a social enterprise venture centered on the creation of carbon-rich char dust from sustainable and renewable agricultural waste biomass. This char is then pressed into cooking briquettes and sold as green charcoal, as well as promoted as a sustainable soil amendment called biochar.

Farmers and entrepreneurs are the key actors in CRI's operations. Kilns are the essential tools to create carbon dust, which lead to the valuable end products—briquettes and biochar.

More specifically, CRI's social enterprise recruits and trains smallholder farmers and small entrepreneurs on how to convert agricultural waste to char dust, and provides production kilns on a lease-to-own basis. The enterprise then purchases the char dust from the producers to generate two products: (1) green charcoal cooking briquettes and (2) a biochar soil amendment. These operations take place at a central facility in northern Haiti.

CRI sells green charcoal as a direct replacement to traditional wood charcoal to consumers at the bottom of the economic pyramid through a network of women-run retail kiosks, as well as directly to institutional consumers, such as schools, restaurants, and hotels.  In addition, CRI promotes the use of biochar as a potent and sustainable substitute to chemical fertilizers through in-kind payments to farmers, local demonstration projects and field trials, and direct sale to agriculture-oriented international NGOs.

Goal: To implement a scalable enterprise model for green charcoal and biochar that addresses deforestation, negative health effects, and low agricultural productivity in the developing world

Project Participants:

Carbon Roots International: Eric Sorensen, executive director; Ryan Delaney, Haiti country director

The Great Energy Challenge grant program, in collaboration with a distinguished group of scientists acting as the board of advisors, awards roughly a half-dozen grants per year. The goal of the grant program is to hasten the growth of promising, global energy solutions as a response to climate change, energy resource constraints and environmental limitations.

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