If you work on sustainable development projects and decide to tackle something as profound as energy poverty, it's easier to see the long road ahead than the progress you make. This morning I got an e-mail from a friend asking how things were going. I said that we had planted 50,000 jatropha trees already, and our goal is 250,000 by the end of the year. We're at 20% of goal in mid-February, which is great. Then I started thinking about the financial impact this project has for our communities in Haiti and that already we've created the potential for over six million dollars of positive impact for Haiti. I apply these facts and assumptions:
- Jatropha oil is a drop-in replacement for diesel fuel and can run most generators/diesel engines without refinement. It's value compares to fossil fuel.
- Our farmers displace no food crops with this project, and pay nothing to participate. We provide the nursery, training and seedlings.
- This is a non-profit effort to sustainably improve lives in rural Haiti.
- Jatropha is non-invasive and has grown in Haiti for hundreds of years.
- Our model is co-op based, non-exclusive and collaborative.
- Sirona buys/leases no land in Haiti for our project.
- All fuel sale profits are re-invested in development work in Haiti.
- Jatropha plants should live for 25-45 years, I've taken 25 for my assumption.
- Over the next 25 years the price for a diesel substitute will not rise above $5.00 per gallon. This is a lower value than diesel sells at today (around $8/gallon) and a very safe assumption.
- Each tree produces enough seed to create one gallon of jatropha oil per year. We are testing this, and feel it is a safe assumption. Internationally this is a conservative number, but we're not in India or Africa, and we won't know until we harvest. Because our plants are inter-cropped with food crops (rather than using the poorest land available), we believe that they will receive the care necessary to produce this amount of oil. A plus of this farming method is that jatropha puts nitrates back into the soil, repairing and improving the food crop's soil.
So, here is what I wrote to my friend today, and wanted to share on the blog:
- Every donation of $100 plants 1,000 jatropha trees
- Each tree produces one gallon of fuel a year ($100 donation=1,000 gallons of fuel)
- Each gallon is worth $5 ($100 donation=$5,000)
- Each tree will produce at this level for 25 years ($100 donation will put $5,000 into the Haitian economy per year and $125,000 over time.)
Today, with 50,000 trees in the ground, our project will put $6.25 Million dollars into the Haitian economy over time:
- In two years, these 50,000 trees should produce 50,000 gallons of fuel a year, for 25 years.
- At $5 per gallon, the fuel sales will inject $250,000 per year into our farming communities
- Over the life of the trees, the financial impact (if our assumptions are accurate) will be $6.25 Million dollars
And we all know what they say about a-s-s-u-m-p-t-i-o-n-s. Even if we're wrong, even if it's half of that, the project will put more than $3 Million dollars a year into a country desperate for revenue generating projects, re-forestation projects, improved soil and alternative fuel sources. I've addressed the nay-sayers there, but to the supporters: just what if we're right? If we reach our goal of planting 250,000 trees this year, the financial impact two years later will be around $625,000 per year culminating in $31.25 Million over the life of the trees. That's really, really exciting to stop and ponder.
If you have a dime in your pocket (well, I think the minimum donation on Paypal is $5), send us a donation. That dime will create $5 in revenue per year for the Haitian community, and ultimately provide $125 dollars worth of positive impact. $5 bucks, or 500 trees creates $2,500 per year for 25 years, or $62,500 over the life of the tree (unless I'm wrong, and it's half, meaning your $5 will only made a $31,250 impact.) All this without displacing a single food crop, and at the same time improving the global environment and Haiti in many ways (slowing deforestation; creating a low carbon/low emission fuel substitute; improved soil, creating a clean-burning charcoal alternative, not to mention many jobs and community improvements...).
We have enrolled over 1,000 farmers excited to participate in the program. We can't keep up with demand at our nurseries and would love to plant faster. Next year's goal is completing 1 Million trees, and we could make that this year with adequate funding. The more fuel we produce and sell in Haiti the better; if it can't be sold in Haiti it is a very valuable export for which I have a guaranteed buyer. We expect the Haitian market for this oil to be robust, but we have a back-up plan just in case.
Today I feel really excited. I can look at where we are, what our Haitian partners have accomplished, and breathe for a moment. Once I click "Publish" I will turn back to the long road in front of us... but it has been a really, really good morning.