The research presented in this report directly addresses important and unresolved questions stemming from the unexpected fact that Haitians continue to meet approximately 80 percent of their national energy needs through firewood and charcoal production.
Haiti burns over 400,000 tons of charcoal annually (USAID 2011); that amount translates to over 4,000,000 tons of trees destroyed since it takes 10 tons of wood to produce one ton of Haitian charcoal (ESMAP 2007). Regional environmental studies in Haiti, including Ghilardi, et al 2018, have determined that the Haitian charcoal industry has a destructive effect on the trees of Haiti.
This analysis examines woodfuel sustainability in Haiti and explores the impacts of near- term household energy interventions. Woodfuels represent nearly 80% of Haiti’s primary energy supply and the country has long been considered an archetypal case of woodfuel-driven deforestation
Conventional charcoal and firewood are the main source of energy in Haiti. They provide up to 90% of the country’s energy for domestic and industrial use, resulting in severe environmental and health issues. The present study is initiated to better understand the reasons why two promising alternative technologies (improved cookstoves and alternative charcoal briquettes) have experienced low adoption in Haiti.
The aim of this study was to perform a rigorous field evaluation of alternative cooking fuel during actual use. Chabon Vet (green charcoal) fuel briquettes are produced by Carbon Roots International (CRI) in Cap Haïtien, Haiti and are made from carbonized agricultural waste, predominantly sugarcane bagasse. During this study Chabon Vet was compared to other commonly used wood-derived fuels (wood charcoal and firewood).
In Haiti, most families have traditionally relied on wood and wood-derived charcoal as their primary fuel source for indoor cooking. This resource has proven to be unsustainable, however, as over 90% of the Haitian countryside has already been deforested and wood is now in low supply. As a poor country, importing fuel is not a viable option and thus, the ability to utilize renewable energy sources is critical.
Soil erosion and deforestation are endemic in Haiti due to centuries of agricultural exploitation, first under the colonial plantation system—intensive monocropping of export commodities such as cotton, indigo, tobacco, sugarcane, and coffee—and later by the widespread harvest of timber for export markets and the expansion of peasant subsistence agriculture on marginal sloping land. A growing urban population and an increasing demand for charcoal and fuel wood have further stressed the environment.
Wood-residue briquettes will relieve pressure in Haiti deforestation and create a market for the product. In Haiti, it would involve growing a renewable biomass crop – such as cane, vetiver or kenaf. Their by-products would furnish raw material for a briquetting operation.