PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Carbon Roots International (CRI), a USAID-supported non-profit organization, is working to bring sustainable agricultural methods to Haiti. Deforestation has claimed all but 2 percent of Haiti’s forests, yet wood charcoal remains a staple of home cooking. CRI aims to end deforestation on the island and change both agriculture and cooking by promoting two products, briquettes and biochar.
Briquettes, also know as “green charcoal,” are flammable cooking blocks created from compressed coal dust and agricultural waste. They sell 5-10 percent cheaper than wood charcoal and work on traditional cook stoves. The ease of transitioning to briquettes along with their reasonable price makes the charcoal alternative an attractive option for Haitian families that, on average, spend 40 percent of their income on cooking fuel.
On the other hand, biochar is a carbon rich charcoal that farmers can use to increase both soil fertility and crop output. Its sponge-like composition works to promote healthy soil atmosphere in which agriculturally beneficial organisms can thrive and complement plant growth. By implementing biochar into farming practices, Haitians can permanently improve the quality of their increasingly depleted soil fields. Additionally, the benefits of biochar farming do not subside with time, as opposed to the temporary effects of many other fertilizers.
The benefits of both of these products are undeniable. They would help increase agricultural production and reduce costs for thousands of Haitians. The challenge for CRI is implementing them in the fragile infrastructure of the island. Deforestation has left the island vulnerable to flooding, the government is ill equipped to respond to the area’s frequent tropical storms and the both the judicial system and the police force have been corrupted by drug trafficking. On top of all this, over 75 percent of the nation’s 10 million people live in poverty.
USAID has shown its support for CRI through a $100,000 grant to help it overcome these challenges. With the help of USAID, CRI has purchased tools to help increase the production of briquettes, created a public awareness campaign about the benefits of green charcoal and formed a system of Haitian saleswomen to spread its products. CRI now has developed the proper infrastructure to begin expanding its operations. Speaking on the new possibilities for CRI, co-founder Ryan Delaney stated, “Right now we sell small-scale, but we have ambitious expansion goals,” underscoring the enthusiasm that USAID has instilled into the pro-social organization.
USAID’s support for CRI and the organizations ability to expand its efforts to improve Haiti displays the positive effects of United States international aid. By supporting CRI, USAID is helping to improve the stability and general prosperity of the Haitian people. A stronger Haiti can offer the U.S. new economic opportunities while also improving the impoverished condition of thousands of people living on the island. USAID’s continued support for both Haiti and innovative organizations like CRI is critical in the fight to eliminate poverty.