Non profit organization, Radio Lifeline’s Black Earth Project is now seeing funding from Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. The initiative uses biochar to help Rwandan small farmers better mitigate the effects of climate change.
What is Biochar, you ask? It is a charcoal that is produced through the burning of dried biomass in a low/zero oxygen environment. When this happens it’s called pyrolysis and it can help prevent combustion and reduce the release of carbon dioxide, black carbon, and other associated greenhouse gasses that come from traditional charcoal production methods.
A full two years of research will be devoted by the Black Earth Project in evaluating the effectiveness of biochar when it is used as a soil substitution by small share Rwandan coffee farmers. Agricultural residues, such as dried corn stalks, grass, rice hulls, coffee pulp, cow manure, and wood chips will be used to fuel the biochar production process.
The reason Green Mountain is funding this is because they believe this could make a large contribution to the goal of helping small farmers meet recent climate change challenges through higher yield and lower input costs. In effect, when biochar is used as a soil amendment it can reduce nutrient leaching, help to retain moisture, reduce soil acidity, improve surrounding water, and increase crop yields. In recent studies, it was shown that biochar can remain stable in the ground for thousands of years.
In the study, a series of pilot projects will be launched within Rwanda’s coffee and pyrethrum farming sectors. The benefits of using biochar will be compared to use of traditional chemical fertilizers.
The project is scheduled to begin test plot construction and farmer instruction and training on March 3rd in Butare, Rwanda.