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9044: Re: 9020: braking and breaking the charcoal cycle in Haiti (fw (fwd)

From: Dave Fonda <fonphoto@snip.net>

> the commendable introduction of
>hundreds of solar cookers, consider how quickly this needs to be
>scaled up to match the actual size of the problem...and the rate at which
>Haiti's life-support is being consumed and wasted.  

Stuart, et al;

I agree that the introduction of any alternative to charcol is indeed commendable.  However, I do not believe that solar cookers can be a replacement for charcoal on a large scale, and certainly not in time to have any significant impact on deforrestation. 

There are some basic limitations to solar cookers, the primary one being that they require the sun.  This prohibits cooking before sunrise, or after sunset.  It requires cooking out in the open, subjecting the cook to the heat of the sun and any other weather;  cooking would be virtually impossible in the rain.

But the largest problem is one that you mention in your post:

>b) a new culture and style of food choice and preparation (for
>   example, soaking beans and rice overnight or pressure-cooking
>   rather than preparing them from a dead start each morning), and

 An immense task, and probably a futile one.  Changing cultural habits is like the proverbial herding of cats....  the only oneıs that you end up getting to market are the ones that were going there anyway.  I donıt think that enough people will be willing to change such a fundamental aspect of their culture to have a major impact on the problem.  

Personally, I donıt feel that solar cookers will be more than a Œnicheı product;  as long as there are other options, itıs just too big of a step to ask an entire culture to make.  

In order to make a culture-wide change, the step must be a smaller one.  The problem is the fuel.  Rather than changing the fundamental method of cooking, it would be far more practical to change the fuel.

An age-old and well researched alternative fuel source is briquetted bio-matter.  It is, in fact, being done in Haiti on a limited basis already.   Waste (for the most part) bio-matter such as corn husks, rice husks, etc. is combined with a binder and compressed into briquettes.  Once it has been dried out, it can be cooked with like charcoal.  With inexpensive, purpose-made grills, they are more efficient than charcoal.

Of course, it requires that a new technology be learned, but the basic process is no more complex or difficult than charcoal production.  It does require a press, but these can be simple, easily manufactured and maintained pieces of equipment.  An excellent press can be made with parts from junk cars, helping out with another of Haitiıs problems!  The collection of bio-matter is no more difficult than collecting wood for charcoal, and given the rampant deforrestation, in most places it would be easier.  It would be a natural business to marry with many agricultural operations.  A recipe for the combination of the specific bio-matter thatıs being used must be determined and followed, but there are intricacies to charcoal production as well.  And the manufacture and distribution of briquettes is far cleaner than for charcoal.

This is just the briefest of overviews of this option.  For a full examination of the process, go to 


where the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN has an extensive research paper.

In Haiti, Dr. Keith Flanaghan (a veterinarian who worked for years at HAS) has been working on introducing the process.  It has been a couple of years since I have been in touch with him, but if anyone is interested, I can dig out the last contact info I had on him.

The problems of charcoal use in Haiti are immense and the answers will need to be equally so.  No single answer is likely to solve the problem.  The answer of briquetting is certainly not one that I have come up with, I am only passing it along, but Iım happy to give the band wagon a little push.

R E S P E C T;

     Dave Fonda

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