Describe Your Solution:
Much of the developing world relies on charcoal as a primary source of energy, which propels a destructive domino effect of negative health outcomes, deforestation, increased greenhouse gas emissions, erosion, flooding, decreased arable land, declining crop yields, and depressed incomes, thereby reinforcing reliance on polluting, tree-consuming charcoal. Though charcoal fuel use and low agricultural productivity are interlinked, most current development strategies attempt to address these problems in isolation. Carbon Roots International has launched a project centered around the creation of carbon-rich char from sustainable and renewable biomass, such as agricultural waste biomass, for use as cooking fuel (?green charcoal?) and as a sustainable soil amendment (?biochar?). The project combats deforestation and earns revenue through the sale of green charcoal briquettes, and bolsters food security through biochar production and disbursal to farmers. The heart of CRI?s project model is a network of smallholder farmers and prospective micro-entrepreneurs who are trained to produce char out of their agricultural waste biomass (sugarcane bagasse, corn stover, rice husk, etc.) using simple, easy-to-use kilns constructed from locally-sourced 55-gallon barrels. Following capacity building workshops, each farmer takes home a kiln under a lease-to-own program and begins to monetize their waste biomass by converting it into char, which Carbon Roots International then purchases from the farmer. At a central facility, CRI processes the char into two vital and reciprocal tools that reduce exploitation of local resources: a sustainable, drop-in substitute for traditional wood-based charcoal, and an extremely potent fertilizer replacement. The green charcoal produced by CRI is not a charcoal replacement like many alternative fuels projects; it is charcoal, differing primarily in its origin as non-woody biomass. Therefore, green charcoal briquettes look and perform similarly to traditional wood charcoal, requiring neither new cooking methods nor new stove technologies, thus mitigating financial and cultural barriers to adoption that have plagued many clean cookstove and alternative fuel projects. By addressing the root cause of deforestation?charcoal consumption?CRI?s renewable fuel saves trees, makes reforestation a possibility, and boosts the livelihoods of the poorest farmers. The other application of the char is as a soil amendment, known as biochar. Due to its micro-porous structure, biochar makes an immediate impact in soil, resulting in increased water retention, improved cycling of nutrients, and augmented crop yields. Moreover, charring biomass before decomposition for use as biochar removes carbon from the global CO2 cycle, and is a form of carbon sequestration. Compared to existing agricultural inputs that are currently available to the world?s poorest farmers, biochar is a cheap, sustainable alternative that, unlike chemical or natural fertilizers, does not lose potency over time. Indeed, because biochar does not merely add nutrients to the soil but rather provides housing for a micro-organic ecosystem, biochar?s benefits are effectively permanent. When produced from renewable agricultural waste in the developing world, biochar represents a viable and valuable new tool to address global issues of soil and nutrient loss, erosion, food security, and greenhouse gas emissions.