by Daniel Schnitzer
In a recent post, you were introduced to Madame Nothude and her organization promoting and innovating the use of “charbon alternatif.” In the discussion that followed a demonstration of how their product is made, we talked about the feedback they’ve received and the details of their engagement with local farmers. What they have done so far is impressive – over 60 groups of 10-20 farmers now have their own “charbon alternatif” production technology and skills. But, as they told me, this is a far cry from “commercialization,” which they see as being vital to making a dent in Haiti’s wood charcoal use.
In the course of our discussion, an ACAPE employee began to articulate one of EarthSpark’s core functions, which I happened to be thinking about just as he opened his mouth. He started to say, “We need partnerships…” In my excitement – I knew exactly where he was going – I asked him to stop so I could take out my camera and record his words.
He explained, “We need some partnerships because we have many people in this country who are really interested in this activity. We have some areas or zones which are waiting for us to give them training. We have Port Salut, St. Jean, and some other areas where people are waiting for training…but we do not have enough money or capacity to spread it in this country, mostly in the south part here. That’s why it [partnership] is very important.”
I find these words both somber and inspiring. Across the country I have seen so much being done to mitigate energy poverty and so much potential for growth; I have been told by countless people their eagerness to buy clean and efficient energy technologies and to receive technical training; I have heard appreciation and thankfulness for a single solar lamp received as a gift from an organization or family member. But without a model for scale, Haiti will maintain a perpetual limbo, unable to gain the necessary traction to escape from energy poverty.
This is where EarthSpark International fits into the picture. Our model enables this traction by quickly creating retail business franchises. These franchises help to support suppliers of products and services alike – such as ACAPE’s charbon alternatif seminars and the efficient stoves and charcoal presses built by local fabricators. These suppliers of training and technology are just that – suppliers. It is not within their domain of expertise to perform retail functions – marketing, customer service, and end-user financing.
In addition to providing a sales channel for suppliers, the retail franchises demonstrate the demand for clean energy technology and services in financial terms - sales, revenue, profit; whatever you want to call it. Upon demonstrating this demand, EarthSpark International can present a compelling opportunity to businesses capable of becoming large scale distributors, transporters or importers (for foreign clean energy technology).
ACAPE and the small metal fabricators are hardly unique in their predicament of being unable to scale their much-needed and valuable goods and services. There are Jatropha Pepinyes, Ecole Ateliers, and countless local community groups and entrepreneurs around the country – all which have extraordinary skills, technology and potential.