After the hurricanes: AIDG-Haiti performing sugarcane charcoal trainings and deploying picohydro

Cap Haitien. 9/2/08

Flooding in Cap Haitien [9.2.08]. Cap Haitien was relatively lucky compared to cities like Gonaives, Hinche and Cabaret which experienced devastating flooding.

In Haiti, the floodwaters from September’s onslaught of hurricanes are subsiding. People are trying to get their lives back on their feet, but progress and reconstruction are unbearably slow. In addition to work we’ve been doing to get a municipal biogas plant set up in Cap Haitien, we’re doing several smaller projects to help communities meet some of their most pressing energy needs.

While Gonaïves, Hinche and Cabaret experienced the most extensive flooding during the recent spate of devastating hurricanes to hit Haiti, the entire nation was affected. Cap Haitien and many towns in Northern Haiti were completely cut off from the capital, the primary source of essential items like gasoline. During this period, the cost of a gallon of gas sky-rocketed to $20. Charcoal supplies within Cap were also low and the city was suffering from a power outage that lasted several weeks.

Sugarcane charcoal training

To help people cope, AIDG Haiti is putting on several sugarcane charcoal trainings to show families how to make a charcoal alternative from readily available agricultural waste. The methodology was developed by Amy Smith’s D-Lab at MIT and we’ve talked it a lot on this blog here, here, and here.

An early training session in the countryside with Roudelin Augustin and Isnido Elvariste
An early training session in the countryside with Roudelin Augustin and Isnido Elvariste

Moment of truth

Pico-hydroelectric cell phone charging stations

While much disaster assistance is coming into Haiti from governments and NGOs, remittances and cash from family and friends make up a large share of how families are dealing. Cell phone access, thus, provides a lifeline for families affected by these horrible storms.

Pico-hydroelectric system in a 5-gallon bucket

We’re planning to deploy 5 pico-hydroelectric systems to Haiti that can be used to charge cell phones and other small appliances. Our main target community is Borgne, a rural village near Cap Haitien which sustained heavy flooding, but is receiving little aid.

We are also looking into whether these units can be used to power UV water treatment. The success of that arm will depend on a lot of factors, but I’ll keep you guys in the loop.

We’ve budgeted $5000 to cover the cost of materials, transport and travel, but the project could end up costing us a lot more given how volatile the cost of goods are these days. Watch this space.

Related posts:
Rough Guide: How to make sugar-cane charcoal
Sam Redfield on Pico-hydro at La Florida
Borgne Identity: Looking Through Their Eyes
Haiti hurricane update from our staff on the ground