We started off the day by holding a team meeting for the biochar project to reconfirm our goals and establish a schedule now that we are here. Main team members are Jesus and Abiola, but others have said they will help out. Our main goal is to create sufficient biochar to create several plots of land, each one small and with varying amounts of biochar and nutrients. This will be a test plot so that the residents can see the difference in crops with and without biochar and with and without a biochar/nutrient mixture. We are leaning heavily on the book “The Biochar Revolution” by Paul Taylor. It is extremely useful and practical for helping small farmers and was recommended by Ryan Delaney of Carbon Roots, International, a non-profit working in Haiti. Ryan is an ASU MS graduate in Sustainability.
A second goal is to teach the community how to prepare and use biochar so that they can be self-sufficient and possibly create a small business helping other farmers. We are looking forward to tomorrow when we get to see the community and the plot of land they are making available to us to use for our test plots.
We need a 55-gallon drum with a sealing lid and to cut a chimney hole in the top, create a flat steel lid for the hole and make a chimney. The system we used at ASU is our model and shown in the picture below. This system is not necessarily the best way to make biochar, but it is very simple to make and use and that’s what we want this first time.
We agreed on our goals and set forth to make our drum. Edwar and Llayne, our partners in Andes Libres, helped us locate a drum by visiting a whole string of small hardware stores (maybe 150 sq ft each). We did locate several drums but it appeared that all drums in Peru have sealed welded lids, mostly for petroleum products. So, we needed to modify the drum. We searched farther and found a steel construction company who had a drum available and agreed to create a removable and sealable lid for it, cut the chimney hole and create a flat lid to seal the chimney hole during the cooling cycle. They charged us S/200 (that’s 200 nuevo soles = $80) and promised to be finished by 5PM today. In the meantime we needed to buy other supplies to add vent holes in the bottom, string to layout the plots, extra work gloves, wire and wire cutters to “sew” the chimney into a cylinder and some other stuff. Strangely, or not, we found a Maestro store which is a clone of Home Depot (see photos) even down to the orange buckets (well, these were red, but identical otherwise).