Al Hammond

Making Biofuels Work for the BoP in Haiti

jatrophaA new paper posted in our resources section gives a specific regional example of the potential benefits of biofuels for the BoP (this adds to our previous discussions on the subject here, here and here).

The paper – by Kathleen Robbins of the GreenMicrofinance Group – tells the story of a small NGO, aided by GreenMicrofinance and an enlightened multinational company, that is piloting an environmentally sound and economically sustainable approach to biofuels. The key element is a jatropha nursery that is incubating young plants and teaching a group of Haitian farmers how to grow them.The oil squeezed from the plant will be burned in lamps and cookstoves and the remaining seedcake used as fertilizer. As supplies grow, a small refinery will be built to process the plant oil into biodiesel-and the local mobile company is willing to buy it to fuel the diesel generators on their cell towers.

Since the jatropha is planted on land too degraded to grow food, it doesn’t compete with human or even animal needs and will help reclaim land, and the unprocessed oil replaces inefficient charcoal made from Haiti’s few remaining trees. The biodiesel will eventually replace expensive imported petroleum fuels.

The economic viability of this project remains to be proven in practice; the first plantings by farmers are going in the ground now. But the key elements-environmentally sustainable local production and local consumption, job and income creation, and industrial demand from the mobile company-can likely be replicated in many developing countries. Thus the model is worth broader attention.

Read the full report here.