Cooking with firewood and charcoal in poorly aerated places is harmful to human health. The carbon monoxide (CO) and other pollutants emitted from their combustion lead to indoor air pollution, a leading risk factor for deaths worldwide.
According to the World Health Organization, 3.8 million people were estimated to have died prematurely last year due to indoor air pollution. Developing countries are disproportionately affected by this health hazard, which primarily affects women and children.
The harmful pollutants include but are not limited to carbon monoxide (CO), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and particulate matter (PM). They increase the likelihood of cardiovascular diseases, lung cancer, and pneumonia to cite a few.
Adding to the problem of indoor air pollution is how much is spent on charcoal. It is reported that families in Haiti spend a large percentage of their income on acquiring this cooking fuel. A burden for low-income families desperate for more affordable and sanitary alternatives.
In Haiti, most of the energy needs for cooking are met through charcoal and firewood combustion. Each year, around 946,500 metric tons of charcoal are consumed (Tarter et al., 2018). Through the relationship between deforestation and charcoal production is complex, the high pressure put on production areas is evident.
One of the most direct consequences of deforestation is soil erosion. Soil erosion ahs disastrous environmental effects. It decreases agricultural productivity, damages important infrastructure such as dams and roads, worsens droughts, and most importantly, accentuates landslides.
On top of preventing landslides, trees have been shown to protect health by trapping and absorbing pollutants. They benefit the environment by taking in carbon dioxide that helps slow the pressing issue of climate change. They also host complex microhabitats, hence boosting wildlife.
Despite all these factors, it is difficult for the government to place limitations on the charcoal industry, as it represents nearly 5% of the country's GDP (Tarter et al., 2018). Introducing a sustainable energy source as an alternative to charcoal/firewood could lessen the pressure on Haiti's forests and the consequences associated with deforestation.
In Haiti, chemical fertilizers are mostly imported from the Dominican Republic and the United States. A bag of the most common types used (either 12-12-20 or 20-20-30) is around $20 - a price that few farmers can afford.
This industry is therefore subsidized by the Haitian government who provided more than $6 million in 2012 to reduce the price in half. A mandatory action as the agricultural sector represents around 20% of the country's GDP. Despite these efforts, fertilizers are still out of reach of most local agricultural producers.
The government is actively looking for alternatives to reduce the dependency on expensive, imported fertilizers, and we now notice an emerging market for local and organic fertilizers.