One million meals cooked on our stove would make enough biochar to sequester 600 tonnes of carbon dioxide, save 2,000 tonnes of living wood, filter 20 million litres of water and enrich 20 hectares of farmland. *
Most environmental initiatives incur cost and inconvenience. This one does the opposite, which is why we believe in it.
Self-sufficiency is not something that we have to worry too much about in the West just yet. However for billions of people around the world it is a critical part of survival. In many rural communities, where paid employment opportunities are limited, producing at least some of your own food is essential. Fertile land for cultivation, wood fuel for cooking, and water for drinking and irrigation are often very limited. It is vital to make the most of scarce resources; this is where biochar can really help:
- By using this technique to cook at least some of their food, a family will produce sufficient biochar to significantly improve the effectiveness of their home-made compost, irrigation water and fertilizer. Over time, crop yields will increase, especially in the poorest soils.
- The main cause of habitat loss is land being cleared for crops. Move productive land means less need for new land.
- Less wood will be used and, more importantly, even the smallest of twigs can be burnt effectively. Trees can supply fuel through natural shedding rather than having to be chopped down, which actively encourages tree preservation.
- Many tropical soils are very porous. Biochar is excellent at retaining water and nutrients. This capacity also works for fertilizers, preventing them from leaching out where they can pollute watercourses.
- More than enough Biochar can be made to effectively filter all the drinking water a family needs, using a simple homemade filter. The ability to produce crystal-clear drinking water, free of toxins, will have a positive impact on the health of many families.
- Not having to boil drinking water will save a lot of fuel.
- Less smoke while cooking improves air quality and health (it is estimated 3 million people die every year, from respiratory illnesses caused by wood smoke inhalation.)
Those of us lucky enough to enjoy a social ‘BBQ’ might use one of these stoves because it’s a novel and fun way to cook, but for many it could make a real difference to their quality of life.
How does this help with climate change?
Resources; using less of them! Less fertiliser, less water usage, less food purchased. This in turn means less transport and less commercial production. Less fuel is needed, and the ability to use forest litter means less deforestation, which means more trees. Better health through less smoke and cleaner water (medical resources are saved). The carbon sequestration is the icing on the cake! It all adds up when scaled up!
Productive land which remains productive, reduces the need to clear new land. This in turn reduces habitat loss.
This approach allows biochar to be produced in quantity where it is needed, which is a key benefit over centralised production. Of major significance is that biochar made in our stoves is much more like that used in terra preta. It is often derived from a variety of trees, therefore producing a very blended biochar. Much work now needs to be done to determine how best to use it.
Feeding plants not rivers
Leaching of fertilisers from farm plots into water courses has a very negative environmental impact and wastes a lot of money. We believe a layer of biochar placed below the tilling zone would act as a permanent nutrient and moisture trap. This is one example of the kind of research we would like to pursue.
If, like me, you take many claims of ‘this will help humanity’ with a large pinch of salt, I invite you to ‘road-test’ this particular one for yourself! The following videos show you how to make a ‘trench stove’ out of solid clay bricks and a simple ‘biochar’ water filter.
We have to say this… You make your own stove and water filter at your own risk; we accept no liability for any injuries. Remember; never use flammable liquids, like petrol, to light any barbecues or fires.
- An average meal produces 200g of biochar = > 600g of CO2
- Each meal cooked would use around 1.5kgs of dry fallen sticks. The stove is > 50% more efficient than an open fire. We estimate that at least 3kgs of freshly chopped wood would be needed to cook the same meal.
- Independent trials show that 100g of fine biochar will effectively filter >20L of contaminated water.
- We apply 1kg of ‘charged’ biochar per square metre of land.
To provide some perspective; in the UK over 100 million BBQs are fired up each year.
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