Haiti Reconstruction

Rebuilding Haiti must start from the ground up, with agricultural education

Charcoal and Firewood

 Charcoal and Firewood

Charcoal is the most commonly used cooking fuel in towns and cities in Haiti. Firewood is more commonly used for cooking in the countryside, but charcoal is also used. Charcoal is mostly made from trees which are cut down and the roots are dug up.

Charcoal is made by burning wood with restricted air flow. The volatiles are gasified and released and the carbon is left behind as charcoal. About three quarters of the energy is lost in the process but the remaining charcoal is more energy dense and burns hotter and cleaner than the original firewood. In Haiti the typical method is to cover a large pile of wood with dirt, ignite it, then, after the fire gets going, cover air inlets with more dirt. The smoke you see wafting from scattered spots in the countryside is charcoal being produced.

Many Haitians make charcoal to sell and it is an important source of income.

Percent of poor households’ annual income from the sale of firewood and charcoal


Assessment of Haiti Alternative Cooking Technologies Program, USAID, 2010 :

It is estimated that Haitians use at least 4 million tons of wood annually, 33% of which is transformed into charcoal, chiefly for cooking purposes (2007 ESMAP). According to the ESMAP study, 37 million cubic meters of living wood and a 2% annual growth rate means that 474,000 tons of wood or 71,000 tons of charcoal could be produced sustainably from existing wood stocks in Haiti. The consumption rate of charcoal in Port-au-Prince alone is estimated to be approximately 413,000 tons/year, based on a population of 3.5 million with an average household size of 4.9 and a 70% charcoal usage rate. Clearly, the depleted Haitian forest resource base alone is not sufficient to meet current demand. Charcoal/Wood production is not regulated in Haiti. Recent information highlighted in a recent New York Times article5 revealed that there is a large illegal charcoal trade emanating from the Dominican Republic.
The average urban household interviewed during the course of this assessment consumes 2.27 kg of charcoal per day, or just under 2 marmite (can)/day. This represents 47.29gd/day (~$1.20 US) spent on fuel, which is 28% of the average income of respondents who are employed (average income is 170.11gd/day). Estimates show that rural households are consuming 1.5kg of wood per day (ESMAP 2007). Charcoal usage among rural households is difficult to judge because it is based on seasonal variations and is often sold in different quantities (such as macoute, or donkey sacks), but is likely around 2.18kg/day in the rainy season among wealthier households.



Diesel fuel is the largest of the imported petroleum products, accounting for over 48% of Haiti’s imported energy expenses. Fonkoze, the largest microfinance organization in Haiti and Digicel, the largest mobile phone company, alone use over 250,000 gallons of diesel fuel each month for stationary power generation across Haiti.

Cost of Energy in Haiti, 2003

Haiti’s energy requirements are being met by imported petroleum products or locally produced charcoal and fuel wood. As a result Haiti is over 98% deforested which contributes to erosion problems and creates the potential for massive flooding and loss of life.


Vetiver Grass/Agriculture Waste

Any waste from agriculture/forestry also is a potential biofuel that hold enormous potential. Some "waste" is fed to livestock. We need to make sure that we aren't using for fuel what would be better used for food, feed, or fertilizer. High nitrogen "waste" like manure or legume stalks would be better used as fertilizer. Burning will result in loss of organic nitrogen into the atmosphere.


Comment by Robert Fairchild on July 10, 2011 at 5:14pm
Using dry wood for firewood or charcoal production will significantly reduce firewood use and increase charcoal production. Firewood can be sun dried on the rafters under the hot tin roof or in specially built solar firewood dryers. It can also be dried around the outside of TLUD stoves (inside another concentric pipe). Haitians needs to modernize charcoal production and utilize the gasses produced to dry wood for the next batch of charcoal or for direct use as firewood.


You need to be a member of Haiti Reconstruction to add comments!

Join Haiti Reconstruction

© 2017   Created by Mike Mahowald.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service

} }