Biodiesel in Haiti

  First biodiesel pilot plant in Haiti
First biodiesel pilot plant in Haiti.

ISTC researchers have joined with Partners for People and Place (PPP) to establish a biodiesel market in Haiti. The electrical grid in Haiti is spotty at best, so many houses use diesel generators for electricity. Running these generators can be very costly because Haiti must import all fossil fuels.

Alternatively, if there was an internal market for diesel, prices would be much lower, allowing small businesses and farmers to thrive. PPP proposes to produce biodiesel and soap from Jatropha plant seeds which would be farmed, sold, and eventually bought by Haitians.

Currently, Haitian farmers grow Jatropha plants, harvest the seeds, and sell the seeds to PPP at fair market value. PPP works with several not-for-profit organizations that make biodiesel and soap from the seed oil. Then those products are sold back to Haitians, keeping all the revenue in Haiti. Additionally, the Jatropha plants help to restore deforested land to natural habitat.

ISTC developed the first biodiesel pilot plant in Haiti and produced the first Jatropha biodiesel in 2010. Joe Pickowitz of ISTC conducted research to help make the biodiesel and soap-making processes more efficient and less costly. Pickowitz also traveled to Haiti a number of times to give locals lessons on how to run the biodiesel pilot plant themselves.

Why Jatropha?

  • Perennial shrub/tree native to Haiti
  • Easily cultivated without irrigation or fertilization
  • Grows on marginal land too dry or poor for food crops
  • Adapted to grow in difficult places including arid and mountain slopes
  • Inedible by goats and grazing animals
  • Pest and disease resistant
  • Reaches full seed production within three years
  • Produces beans for 40-50 years
  • Easily harvested by hand labor
  • Yield: 1,590 Kg of Jatropha oil per hectare vs. 375 Kg of soybean oil per hectare

jatropha tree  jatropha leaves and seeds