We're very excited about launching our IEEE/Sirona Rural Electricity Program next month, but we've haven't slowed down on the Jatropha project. I am excited to report the start of two new nurseries this month. With over 1,000 farmers enrolled in our program we're confident that by the end of the year we will have planted 250,000 trees. Photos show the beginning of the nursery in Petit Goave that is already full of seedlings, and the tools that the nursery set-up dollars paid for.
Jatropha was hailed as a magic bullet internationally because its oil from its seeds is a drop-in replacement for diesel fuel. Initially there was a rush to purchase or lease large tracts of land for Jatropha plantations resulting in food crop displacement. Many Jatropha projects failed because field maintenance costs created poor economics and food displacement is a very real issue.
Our program is unique because we're creating the possibility for the small farmer in Haiti to succeed without displacing any food production. Haitian farmers are typically not monoculture farmers, usually there are a number of things being grown in a garden. We provide the seedlings from our nurseries and train them on safe intercropping. Haitians know Jatropha, it grows wild there. Because it is not eaten by animals, it was traditionally used to mark graves in Haiti. It's also a popular hedge crop.
Haiti suffers from severe deforestation resulting in great losses of topsoil and landslides. Much of the soil is depleted of minerals, and crops are not thriving as they could. Jatropha addresses both stabilizes the land (shrubs will live for 25-45 years) and puts nitrates back into the soil. Jatropha oil is, in fact, a drop-in replacement for diesel fuel. By simply crusing the seeds and filtering the oil you can run generators or stretch regular diesel for almost any diesel engine. The biproduct of the crushing process, seedcake, makes a nitrogen rich fertilizer or can be compressed into charcoal briquettes (reducing the need to cut down trees for charcoal and creating revenue for the farmers in addition to the seed sale).
Fuel is the path that dollars take out of every community in the world, and by placing the power to grow, use and sell clean fuel in the hands of Haitians we are addressing many issues, both Haitian and global. We've planted 30,000 trees already and now have 20,000 seedlings in our nurseries. By the end of the year we will have planted 250,000 trees. Jatropha oil is a valuable export but our goal is to sell the oil in Haiti at a price that sustains the program. Sirona Cares is a 501(c)3 non-profit, and we roll all profits from fuel sales back into infrastructure development in Haiti. The project is scalable, replicable, and well received.
Jatropha is NOT a magic bullet. Jatropha IS a plant with incredible properties that can be grown without displacing food, improve soil for food crops, slow erosion, and reverse deforestation allowing other trees to grow again on the mountains of Haiti. This project is an environmentally responsible approach to helping impoverished communities help themselves, and in the process offset carbon emmissions of other countries.