Can ethanol help mitigate the impact of fuelwood use on the environment in Haiti?

Publication Date


Degree Name

MA in Sustainable Development

First Advisor

Jeff Unsicker


As in many other developing countries, the overuse of fuelwood (charcoal and firewood) creates the problem of deforestation in Haiti. Although there have been efforts to tackle the problem of harvesting trees and the use of fuelwood as the primary energy for cooking and other commercial and household activities, the country still faces the acute problem of deforestation in the twenty-first century. Kerosene, liquefied petroleum gas, and electricity were introduced as alternatives in the early 1960s, but most households still depend on charcoal for cooking, and a few small businesses still rely on firewood for their commercial activities. Without a practical solution, the problem of deforestation that triggers environmental degradation will remain a real threat in Haiti. This paper explores the viability of ethanol as new alternative to fuelwood. It argues that Haiti has the potential to produce ethanol because of its sugar cane production and distilleries, but that it will only be accepted if the price is the same as or lower than charcoal and firewood. Drawing on data on the cost of ethanol and other cooking fuels in five low-income African countries, the paper calculates that the average cost of ethanol there is less than the actual cost of charcoal in Haiti. While there are limitations to this analysis, it does suggest that ethanol may indeed be a viable alternative and that it would be worth further research and development.

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