SUMMARY: We propose a two-year demonstration biochar project, which addresses three of the major challenges facing coffee growing communities across Central America: utilizing the by-products from coffee processing, providing clean-burning, fuel efficient alternatives for cooking and developing effective organic fertilizers, which can combat disease and decreasing productivity in Arabica coffee production.

PROBLEM SPACE: Nicaragua is the second poorest country in Latin America. Close to half the population live in rural areas. 68% of them survive on little more than US$1 per day. SOPPEXCCA is a large coffee cooperative in the Jinotega Region. The 650 member / farmers face two systemic problems, which we believe can be positively impacted by solving a third systemic problem. Currently 30% of each harvested coffee berry is in the form of pergamino, an unused by-product. This represents an environmental problem and an unused resource. Our project will re-purpose this waste material to address two of the most serious problems that the members of SOPPEXCCA face: the coffee disease known as leaf rust and the epidemic rates of respiratory illness. We will work with SOPPEXCCA to implement a two-year demonstration project, which will pellet coffee waste at their processing facility. SOPPEXCCA will distribute a durable, pellet burning cook-stove stove and coffee chaff pellets. The stove carbonizes the raw pellets (biochar), while burning the smoke before it leaves the chimney. This biochar will be exchanged for more raw pellets. The collected biochar will be inoculated with a beneficial microorganism, effective in suppressing leaf rust and used as a soil amendment.

SOLUTION: “SeaChar is a US 501c3. Working closely with local partners in Costa Rica, SeaChar launched the Estufa Finca (Farm Stove) project in January 2010.

That pilot-project focused on introducing an improved cook-stove, for the migrant coffee bean picker population. Since January 2012, our team’s focus has been introducing biochar and biochar producing stoves to indigenous Bribri communities in the Talamanca region of southeast Costa Rica. The team is based in the Talamanca.

Utilizing grants from organizations like National Geographic and Environ Foundation, we have developed stoves that produce 92% less smoke and use 40% less fuel than an open cook fire. These stoves produce high quality charcoal (biochar) from a wide range of input materials. We have developed and field-tested training and promotional materials to support the stoves and introduction of biochar. We have also financially supported two-years of research on the use of biochar in tropical agriculture. The project cycle also included a biochar “buy-back” demonstration program. Cooks using the Estufa Finca, could save their biochar and once a month sell it to us. The program bought 4.25 tons of biochar from 32 cooks. It is all in the soil. The Estufa Finca-SOPPEXCCA project will build on this experience.”

CONTACT: [email protected]