Goal $12,500

Raised $0

“Stop the Smoke” Campaign 2018

Turning crop waste to biochar

We need your help to capitalize a prototype model social enterprise for communities across the developing world. We seek $12,500 to launch the model in our hometown, poor, rural Phrao, North Thailand. The funds will provide for training, equipment, and working capital. The social enterprise will sequester CO2, reduce emissions of black carbon, greenhouse gases, PM2.5 and smog precursors, improve community health, create jobs, restore soil and improve yields.

This project is about our three big concerns – climate change, the environment and rural poverty – and our mission – empowering local communities to save themselves.

Poor, small farmers suffer more from climate change and live under worse environmental conditions than anyone in the world – but are given no options to improve their lives or contribute to saving our planet. This project addresses one of small farmers’ biggest problems – what to do with crop wastes at the end of the harvest season – and demonstrate to them that instead of burning it, they can turn it into a valuable product, create jobs in their communities, improve public health and increase crop yields, all of which matter locally.

What’s the problem?

Every year very small farmers in the developing world burn at least 4 billion tons of crop waste because they have no other way to prepare their fields to plant the next crop.

Every year their crop burning generates:
• 4.3 billion tons of eCO2 (as methane and NOx) – more than the EU emits annually;
• 20 million tons of polar icecap melting black carbon;
• 25 million tons of PM2.5, the tiny particulate that is the 5th biggest cause of death in the world, killing 4.3 million people in 2014, far ahead to such causes as HIV, malaria and other infectious diseases; and
• 250 million tons of the chemical precursors of smog (ammonia, CO, CO 2, methane, NOx and SOx), which is rapidly becoming the killer fog of the developing world’s megacities.

Corn: Nightmare crop

Corn is a critical culprit both because it is such a big contributor to this problem and because it offers such an easy target to fix. Corn is a hugely wasteful crop. Edible kernel is just 22.2 percent of the crop. The remaining 77.8 percent – stalk, cob and husk – is waste. Global corn production is exploding. Developing world production jumped 75%, 2004 – 2014 (last data). Today it exceeds 600 million tons of kernel – and 2.7 billion tons of waste. If farmers burn 50 percent of this (estimates range as high as 90 percent) – or 1.35 billion tons – corn crop waste burning adds 1.45 billion tons of eCO2 to the atmosphere annually, 6.8 million tons of black carbon, and 8.5 million tons of PM2.5.

What can be done?

What can you do?

You can join Warm Heart in starting a grassroots, social enterprise movement to address climate change and kill-PM2.5 by empowering local communities.

All across the corn growing regions of the developing world farmers bring their corn to be de-kernelled. When they do, huge piles of cob accumulate that normally burn. But these piles of cob are easily transformed into biochar by farmers during the dry season following the harvest – a time when there is no work! Each local pile may be just a few hundred tons, but it will still produce one quarter that in biochar, jobs for twenty-five or thirty people, and tons of high quality fertilizer. It will sequester a few hundred tons of CO2; avert the production of a few hundred tons of GHGs, PM2.5, and smog precursors; and keep a few people out of the hospital.

What is so important about this?

It is not the immediate impact. It is the demonstration effect.

Every village with one of the de-kernelling locations – and there are thousands and thousands of them – will ask itself: “Why not us?” And, indeed, why not? Suddenly, one example, catches on by imitation. Don’t kid yourself. These communities can mobilize capital if they have good reason – and you will demonstrate good reason.

Why does this really matter?

Because suddenly, not only are all of these poor farmers’ lives improving by their own actions, but incidentally, all of these small projects are collectively sequestering a lot of CO2, averting the production of a lot of eCO2, cleaning up a lot of air pollution and having a big impact on public health. These are things that everyone – all of the big organizations – talk and talk and talk about, but never actually do anything about.


Too expensive.

Well, guess what?

Your investment is this model social enterprise just proved the ultimate value of social enterprises: they turn social problems like climate change into profitable business opportunities – which themselves may have important community benefits that solve other social problems.

Now that, my friend, if having an impact!

How will the project work?

This project will establish a cooperative social enterprise that included Warm Heart (20%), the owner of the corn de-kernelling business whose facilities will house the business (40%), and all of the farmers who chose to make biochar (40%). During the biochar-making season (January-March), the coop will be managed by a farmer and an assistant elected by coop members, assisted by a part-time bookkeeper.

Farmers may make biochar at the de-kernelling site using machines owned by the coop. The coop will pay them for the biochar on a weekly basis. The coop will sell a portion of the biochar to a commodity buyer and retain a portion that will be made into fertilizer.

The coop will hire the fertilizer makers as daily laborers. When the biochar season is finished, the manager will be paid a commission on fertilizer sales. Net profits will be shared among Warm Heart, the owner and the members of the coop. The farmers’ share will be divided according to each member’s biochar production. For example, if a member produces 10% of the biochar, that member will receive 10% of the coop’s 40% of net profits or 4%.

To establish the project, Warm Heart will negotiate with the business owner, contract for the production of the biochar machines; and provide training to coop members in (1) how to organize and manage a coop, (2) how to operate the biochar machines, and (3) how to make biochar fertilizer. Warm Heart will be the project’s financial agent until the coop is fully established. Warm Heart will ensure that investors receive audited accounts at the end of the first year of operation.

Mae Chaem 2017 Pilot Project
• People trained 550
• Biochar produced: 150 tons
• Tons of CO2 sequestered: 450 tons
• Tons of CH4, NOx and eCO2 averted: 3.5 tons, 1.9 tons, 654 tons

• Tons of smoke averted: 3.8 tons

How do you know that we know what we are doing?

Warm Heart’s Environmental Program has spent seven years working in small farmers’ fields and with advisory committees of small farmers to perfect biochar machines and biochar-based fertilizers specifically for the world’s poorest farmers.

With our own funds and small grants from the US State Department and the Canadian Fund for Local Initiatives, we have designed, field tested and deployed technology and fertilizers, trained hundreds of officials, extension workers and farmers, and tested variations of the proposed social enterprise.

In 2017, Warm Heart was awarded the Energy Globe prize (Thailand) for the project that prototyped the proposed project.

Energy Globe National Award 2017

Phrao, site of this project, is our home, literally and figuratively. Warm Heart is not an “absentee NGO” practiced at fundraising but only an occasional visitor to the field. We are based where we work. It has cost us dearly in funding and publicity, but as the joke goes among local farmers doubtful of a new Warm Heart proposal: “Well, we know where you live.”