An analysis of biochar's appropriateness and strategic action plan for its adoption and diffusion in a high poverty context: the case of central haiti

Document
Description

Haiti has witnessed high deforestation rates in recent decades, caused largely by the fuel needs of a growing population. The resulting soil loss is estimated to have contributed towards a

Haiti has witnessed high deforestation rates in recent decades, caused largely by the fuel needs of a growing population. The resulting soil loss is estimated to have contributed towards a decline in agricultural productivity of 0.5% -1.2% per year since 1997. Recent studies show the potential of biochar use through pyrolysis technology to increase crop yields and improve soil health. However, the appropriateness of this technology in the context of Haiti remains unexplored. The three objectives of this research were to identify agricultural- and fuel-use-related needs and gaps in rural Haitian communities; determine the appropriateness of biochar pyrolyzer technology, used to convert agricultural biomass into a carbon-rich charcoal; and develop an action-oriented plan for use by development organizations, communities, and governmental institutions to increase the likelihood of adoption. Data were collected using participatory rural appraisal techniques involving 30 individual interviews and three focus-group discussions in the villages of Cinquantin and La Boule in the La Coupe region of central Haiti. Topics discussed include agricultural practices and assets, fuel use and needs, technology use and adoption, and social management practices. The Sustainable Livelihoods framework was used to examine the assets of households and the livelihood strategies being employed. Individual and focus group interviews were analyzed to identify specific needs and gaps. E.M. Rogers' Diffusion of Innovations theory was used to develop potential strategies for the introduction of pyrolysis technology. Preliminary results indicate biochar pyrolysis has potential to address agricultural and fuel needs in rural Haiti. Probable early adopters of biochar technology include households that have adopted new agricultural techniques in the past, and those with livestock. Education about biochar, and a variety of pyrolysis technology options from which villagers may select, are important factors in successful adoption of biochar use. A grain mill as an example in one of the study villages provides a model of ownership and use of pyrolysis technology that may increase its likelihood of successful adoption. Additionally, women represent a group that may be well suited to control a new local biochar enterprise, potentially benefiting the community.