Haitian Charcoal Market
One of the best parts about working for Trees, Water & People (TWP) is the variety of angles from which we approach a problem. We see access to clean energy as a human right, and believe that providing that access can be a win not only for a family's health and economy, but also for the entire planet. Daily cooking with wood, charcoal or any other type of biomass is a reality for over 3 billion people on the planet today, and will continue to be a reality for decades or even centuries to come. Accepting this fact is the first step to approaching the issue practically, holistically, and sustainably - something we strive to do daily in our work.
Over the last 15 years, Trees, Water & People has been leading household energy and reforestation programs in Central America and the Caribbean. In Haiti, we have been working to reduce the demand for charcoal and firewood since 2007, by designing cookstoves and cookstove programs that are not only more efficient, but that create jobs, and preserve the way people cook - an important aspect of getting a program to stick. In parallel, we have been working in tree-starved rural areas, from which cooking fuel is extracted and transported to market, understanding that to create full impact, we must focus on creating a more sustainable supply of these fuels while taming demand.
When crops fail due to increasingly unpredictable rains or because a family can't afford fertilizers and quality seed, the sale of charcoal is what puts food on the table that season. Unfortunately, this practice also consumes over 30 million trees a year in this small, deforested island nation - an unsustainable rate by any measure. So while we have worked to encourage entrepreneurs in the manufacture and sale of cookstoves that reduce charcoal consumption by 40%, we are also producing over 100,000 trees per year in rural nurseries, and working to diversify farmer income streams in ways that restore rather than extract from their fragile environment. The next time these farmers need to quickly supplement their income, our intention is that they are able to sell fruits, poles from coppicing trees, and eventually lumber, rather than taking down a tree to produce 60lbs of charcoal at $0.10/lb.
Charcoal is a way of life in Haiti. This campaign you have supported for the last several years has helped us move toward a more sustainable future for charcoal consumers and for entrepreneurs in urban areas, but has also led us to examine the intricacies of the charcoal value chain, upstream to farmers throughout the country. We ask you to continue your support for this important cause by helping us reach this campaign's goal, and by continuing to follow our work at www.treeswaterpeople.org. Thanks to all who have made this work possible, and to all of our friends in Haiti who make our work such a pleasurable and educational experience.