Reason 7: Biochar Helps to Alleviate Poverty in Several Essential Ways
The world's poor often depend on local, small scale agricultural productivity for their survival. In tropical or arid areas, soils typically have very low carbon levels, which contributes to an ongoing cycle of poverty in these regions. Biochar can help break this cycle of poverty, allowing the people in these regions to build carbon-rich soils with little outside assistance.
Biochar can be produced at either village or household scale in developing world scenarios at very low cost, optionally using local resources and materials. Small household stoves have been developed that produce heat for cooking and a small amount of biochar. They use much less biomass, of any type, such as straw, manure, or small twigs, to cook a meal. Importantly, these stoves are very clean burning. The leading cause of death for women and young children in these regions is lung disease brought about by daily exposure to smoke from wood fires. Biochar producing stoves burn the smoke, which contains a significant amount of energy, eliminating this danger.
When the daily dose of biochar is spread in the garden, especially in combination with compost, over time it can have a significant effect, increasing the nutrient content of the food grown, and the quality and quantity of yields. Importantly, the biochar retains any nutrients available in the local ecosystem in the top soil, where plant roots can access them.
A similar system can be implemented on a small rural farm or within a village, selectively transforming some of the biomass waste available to biochar, and composting the rest, to provide soils with permanently elevated levels of carbon that would not be possible naturally in many tropical or semiarid environments, simply because of the heat and/or high rainfall levels.
In short, biochar can help to break the cycle of poverty in many regions of the world. And importantly, once a project is initiated, local persons can continue to implement it themselves.