Nat at WorldStove just recently shared some exciting news about their work in Haiti to provide truly appropriate and sustainable cooking and heating technology.
A partnership of the WorldStove, LLC (“WS”), the International Lifeline Fund (“ILF”) and a private Haitian enterprise called HSSA Energy and Biomass (“HSSA”), the Lifeline to Haiti Project (“LHP”) seeks to help Haiti help itself through the current disaster and beyond by providing fuel-efficient, carbon negative stoves that will alleviate the food and clean water needs of thousands of Haitian families who were rendered homeless by the earthquake. At the same time, LHP will lay the groundwork for a long-term, self-sustaining initiative that will combat deforestation, poverty and diseases attributable to open fire cooking.
The Problem: Throughout Haiti, 95% of the population relies on wood or wood derivatives (i.e., charcoal) for cooking. This cooking method has ravaged the environment, which has lost literally 98% of its forest cover, and has retarded the living standards of Haitian families, who typically spend 20% of their meager income on charcoal and/or hours of their time collecting wood. The indoor air pollution that is caused by open fire cooking is hazardous to health and explains why acute respiratory disease is among the leading causes of death for Haitian children.
In the aftermath of the earthquake, the fuel problem has become dire and is exacerbating the humanitarian crisis. Owing to the disruption of supply lines to the capital, there is virtually no charcoal to be found and people have been looting furniture from collapsed buildings. The masses, who cannot afford wood or charcoal, have no means to cook their food or boil water.
The Short-Term Initiative: To address these urgent needs, LHP has set up a production center in Port au Prince that will produce approximately 2,000 “Lucia” emergency stoves for institutional and household use during its first month of operation alone. These super-efficient woodless stoves, which are the invention of WS, employ an innovative system of fluid dynamics and are fueled entirely with agricultural waste such as twigs, groundnut shells, rice husk and dung. At a cost that can be brought down to as little as about $6 per unit, the Lucia emergency stove will enable a woman to cook for a 5-person household using an average of just 300 grams (about a handful) of fuel per meal. Furthermore, as a result of the pryolytic cooking process it employs, the Lucia stove creates biochar – a substance that functions as a highly effective fertilizer and that can be sold on the market, thereby turning the stove into an income generator for each of its users.
All of the equipment and materials LHP needs to get off the ground have been acquired during the past week and are in the process of being shipped to Haiti (including the manufactured steel components of the stove, a plasma cutting table, sheet metal and 64 tons of pelletized fuel generously donated by Green Circle Bioenergy, Inc.). Our Haitian partner, HSSA, will provide a manufacturing/storage facility, logistical support (e.g., accommodation, food, transport, etc.) and human resources, who will be paid to help produce and assemble the stoves on site.
By the first week in February, LHP should be in position to implement phase one of the project – the distribution of institutional stoves to hospitals, schools, orphanages and the spontaneous camps that have emerged outside of Port au Prince. In coordination with other NGOs, ILF will take the lead in organizing the delivery of stoves to these institutions, training users to operate them, and monitoring the results. Following initial distribution to these priority targets, LHP will expand its efforts to include the provision of stoves to individual families, concentrating on those residing in the most hard-hit locations. During this stage, ILF will work closely with other NGOs on the ground in an effort to form reliable and efficient distribution chains.
The Long-Term Solution: By the time the situation in Haiti begins to stabilize, ILF and WS will have laid all of the groundwork and training necessary for HSSA to assume primary responsibility for the project and to become a “stove hub” – that is, a local, self-sustaining enterprise that will have the capacity to manufacture, distribute and sell the “commercial” Lucia stove for both household and institutional use in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. With the help of WS, it is anticipated that the project will ultimately become “carbon eligible.” The carbon credits thus obtained will enable the stove literally to pay for itself, such that it can be made affordable even to the poorest of Haiti’s poor.
In the end, LHP promises to create benefits for the Haitian population that exceed the investment in the project by orders of magnitude. By eliminating the need for wood as a fuel source and creating biochar, production and dissemination of the Lucia stove offers the potential to help prevent and, indeed, reverse the deforestation that has destroyed the Haitian countryside. For the individuals who are its end users, the Lucia stove will dramatically improve both their health and their livelihoods. And, finally, the manufacturing and distribution process will build local capacity – creating jobs and wealth for Haitians at the same time that they contribute to the rebuilding of their country, the restoration of their environment and the growth of their economy.