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Biochar implementation in the

developing world - Interview of Dr. Sai


Bhaskar Reddy Nakka, GEO by Laura
C. V. Munoz, Pomona College,
Claremont, California

Transcript

(0:17)
L: So Ill tell you a little bit about my project. What Im doing is, Im in my last year of college
and so Im writing a thesis on biochar. What Im specifically focusing on is biochar
implementation in the developing world and also in smallholder agricultural communities. And
so I was doing some research and you looked like an expert and a really good person to
interview. It looks like youve done a lot of different stuff with biochar in India. And also is it
okay if I record this conversation?

A: Yeah.

L: So if youre ready to start the interview.

A: So which part are you working to present?

L: Right now Im in California. So Im doing studying right now mostly and I spent some time
in New Zealand this past summer learning all about biochar and working at the New Zealand
biochar research center and now I am find out about implementation in projects and kind of how
they have gone and how they work etc.

A: You can start the interview.

L: So if you could tell me about your involvement with biochar, your biochar projects.

(1:56)

A: Ive been working on this subject since last 98 in parts of India and also supporting
organizations abroad. So I just returned from Kenya so there was also some missions and
biochar (?). Where I helped train them on charcoal production for using the biochar and also
visited their fields where they are doing the biochar compost. My interest started with the stoves
only, biomass cookstoves. These biomass cook stoves, they require biomass for cooking so you
need to complete the loop, because people always say if you cut the wood then where is the
wood. Then if you have good soil, then you have the biomass. So unless we support the test (?),
so the biochar from the stoves are the results of our again managing the soil infertility, so they
improve the biomass again. So there is a continuous loop that I could find. So this soil energy
and biochar both are interrelated apart from our testing the basic cooking nodes, cooking needs
and for security and many other issues. So environment climate changes and so many things are
linked to this aspect. So the total values around biochar are so many that it inspired me to
continue to work on this aspect to date.

(3:55)

L: So specifically what kind of communities are you working in with the stoves?

A: Basically these are the rural communities. Very poor people.

L: So are they farmers?

A: Yeah, who are dependent on the biomass and the tiny(?) efficient stoves. The three stone
stoves they were using. And these are mostly located in the some of the very remote areas. And
they have little access to the resources. And their livelihoods are also not so good. So these
kinds of communities are the ones Ive been working with.

L: Were they using the biomass for anything else before? Or was it just waste?

A: The biomass is never wasted, even if you leave it out someone will use it (?) and
recyclable. Because it is not a hazardous material. So if you leave it somewhere, the termites
can eat it, some other life will eat it. So it is always a valuable resource. There is no definition
of waste. Waste is only in the context of the people and the dead (?). Its in terms of if they are
able to use it efficiently or not. That is the only definition we are looking at. So biomass, if
people are partly using it for cooking, partly for carbon in the form of compost and different
types of manures (?). And some are using for their own houses and habitats and other things. So
apart that you know the basic uses footprint and things (?). Here again we could find some of the
biomass which is growing in excess and which is cultured as a weed in some communities and
some are exhorting (?) biomass that are growing in large parts of India. Something (?) flora
which is not indigenous, it comes from Mexico, all the way in 150 years it invaded India. So it
took 150 years to come to India and totally invade parts of India. (6:39) So these are the biomass
which could not impact the local ecology even if you use it efficiently. So they pulled one of the
(? ) which I looked into. Apart from the crop residue some of the crop residue is not useful as a
fuel because of its nature. So let us say carton stocks. These carton stocks, after removing the
carton, they are very small and totally kind of sticks. Which is very hard but it can be used this
kind of biomass, the communities can use. (7:21) Similarly, as in Kenya the mealstocks (?) these
are wasted and I have just converted them to use biochar with simple technologies. So there are
different types biomass in each geography at least 20-30 percent which can be accessed to
convert to biochar apart from using them for their traditional uses and also for soil carbon. So
this is our (?) in India alone we have 110 million tons of crop residue. Its only crop residue Im
speaking, not the forest biomass and other things which also cause futency(?) because there are a
lot of forest fires happening. Even in forest management it may be hard to procure this type of
biomass except biomass are trying to convert to biochar there is nothing wrong. But people in the
name of environment and other religions leave it so they will thoroughly cause this kind of
accidents because even each has its own limitations for the life to (?) act on top of the biomass
and to reduce it. So these are some of the challenges we need to understand. How do you
convert and use for various, multiple uses. In the interest of environment also we should think
and definitely biochar is one of the methods of using that. Another way is we are using char in
different ways. We dont call it the traditional use of biochar here (9:08). So theres a thing we
need to understand.

L: Were the farmers you were introducing the biochar stoves to, were they putting charcoal in
their soil before you brought?

A: Exactly. So actually biochar the term is very new. It started only 2-3 months ago. But
actually the understanding you put that the charcoal is very old because the farmers are
intelligent and we should not think that only the scientific community after the education we
started thinking what is biochar and we started teaching them what is biochar. See if it has done
something good now, it would have been done in the past also. How is it that the farmers are so
ignorant to understand the benefits of biochar? So when we throw jargon and other things we
should not think that we are the pioneers and we are the people who took out how to do
agriculture using biochar. We have witnesses globally all over like from the amazon to we have
terra preta and in parts of India in every culture activity and in every act biochar is integrated.
Even if you are death there is biochar. If you have (?) there is biochar. For every festival we
create some biochar in the process. (10:51) So yeah. All these I have included in my latest book
that is called Biochar Culture. Why is it called biochar culture? Because it integrates and goes
here, biochar, agriculture, horticulture. It integrates the values of biochar not only for soil but
also many other ways. So therefore we need understand these aspects.

L: What are so of the other ways, some of the other uses?

A: Yeah if you take right from everyday life also, the people have been using for cleaning their
teeth or utensils. And if you take the cultures of Japanese or Chinese they also use it in their
cloth fabric also they use biochar. So it cleans the environment and for sanitation. For animal
husbandry (?) and livestock. And for the health of the people as medicine. So for habitats also.
They integrate it into the walls. So like the deficy (?), apart from agriculture we have multiple
uses and people are calling it by other names that we have to remember. Say nanocarbon.
Thats also biochar. If you want to call different ways carbon that are activated carbon. Any of
the names you can use, but it is ultimately biochar. Which we have given a new term. Bio
means life and the charcoal. So this connected with the life ultimately. Life means not just
microbiology but I also want to extend the definition of life to any living thing on this earth. So
any living thing is like human beings, let us say, if they have used it as a medicine, this life
connected to char. So that is biochar. Also the definition of biochar extends to biochar culture.
Because culture is a practice where knowingly or unknowingly people have been using it as part
of life so that is what we have not documented much actually. (13:22) If we have tried to
document all those values then definitely would understand biochar is not a simple thing it goes
beyond. Because soil is ultimate. Any day, any use, ultimately it has to reach to the soil. But in
the process it has some values. So we have to see the two values because after reaching the soil
what is its value? Before reaching the soil how many uses has it (?) So like that we have a chain
of uses even before dumping it into the soil. So these values will make it more valuable than
directly putting biochar into the soil. So these things we need to integrate immediately. These
are my efforts actually. You see my website. Other where you see biochar websites you see they
discuss mostly of the agriculture alone. But in my website I integrate many aspects here.

L: So do you integrate those other aspects before the biochar eventually ends in the soil or does
it, where does the biochar end?

A: Ultimately soil only. Even if you take out and (?) they do end up See the whole art is that
(?) ultimate soil. That is life. So ultimately it is an integrated thing (14:57).

L: So youre saying that you can use the charcoal before for other things, before it goes into the
soil?

A: Exactly. These things only will make it more valuable than directly using it into the soil.

L: What sorts of things specifically? Is it the stuff you were talking about a little while ago?

A: Mainly sanitation. All of the toilets we are using chemicals again to clean up the toilets. So
instead of using chemicals you can always soak urine or anything into the biochar. And it is a
wonderful thing to absorb all the smells and create sanitation and directly a fertilizer. So we are
addressing two issues. One is sanitation again other fertilizers we are giving to farmers and
addressing security to the biochar. So all these are integrated in a loop. So why dont we
understand it? Why are we using directly biochar directly into the soil. That is my fundamental
question. Why dont we think beyond. Why are we limiting this valuable resource.

(16:09)

L: So can you tell me the story of maybe bringing the new biochar technology such as the stove
to a community and how that worked and how they received, how you worked with the
community and kind of implemented that project?

A: Its not just a project it is my life actually. Again nine years Ive been spending on these
stoves. Stoves is one of the aspects of biochar because of the quantity of biochar required is
huge. But stoves are generally one of the most environmental- friendly means of getting biochar.
Because any of the areas using biomass for cooking but at the same time giving back to the soil
is a good aspect so that way this aspect has the most integrated approach. But apart from that
Ive been working on the retorts (?) and clean production of biochar by simple means locally
because the main constant is that biomass is a lightweight material and it is not uniform. The
transportation costs are very huge if you have a centralized charcoal production technology.
(17:28) So we need to decentralize these production because otherwise ways farmers are just
burning openly in the field. By open burning again we are contributing to global warming. So to
avoid all that we need to give farmers simple local technologies so that they can conveniently
convert these valuables biomass some part into biochar and some part into the compost. So this
way I get those technologies to the community. Like in Kenya there is a new retort for that (?)
the people there. So wherever we go we find different resources. So based around the skins of
the local people as well as the materials that are local. We can always tell communities on how
to convert them cheaply, efficiently, and with less emissions, to convert the biomass into biochar.
These things we have been training communities how to do that. Apart from that sometimes we
have biochar as a byproduct. Let us say people producing charcoal in certain parts of the world.
Many of them are making it as a part of livelihood. And of course we thought cutting the forest
we never encouraged (?) but whatever is left at the bottom after taking the charcoal, that is a
very useful resource as biochar which is almost (?) free because it is not sold. Because only
chunks of charcoal are sold and has demand in the market. So the poorer(?) and the burnt that is
left after the clean they had started fertile coal production. So that is a valuable resource. These
things now people are understanding and there is a demand from farmers where we have been
teaching them how to herd up these things and understand the biochar. And now they are using
all those resources efficiently and they are converting into biochar compost.


(19:40)

L: So I guess how do you first go to farmers and charcoal makers and those people who you
dont know? Can you just tell them this should be used for the soil, or do you have kind of a
different way of approaching people and getting people to start using the stoves and stuff like
that?

(20:08)

A: Yeah my answer is firstly, when it was in the beginning, I didnt know how to start or where
to start, because you know there were very few people there (?) even the biochar when we
were speaking. We used to call terra preta charcoal like that. So I had gone to the farmers, and
shown pieces of charcoal, and brought the values through (?) from their own day-to-day things. I
had a (?) clean and the charcoal, was because they had burned some biomass along with red
parts to make the clay (?) so they were thinking of what to do. So there this charcoal and
broken pots of (acid?), so I take the 1 L jug until this waters clean, and I think the biomass
around the pot (of clean?) is growing. Because I told him here is the charcoal, and here is your
water (?), and all these things youre making is making these plants grow very luxuriously, and
you can see the size of the leaves and everything, so this is one way I can create awareness about
biochar. Second thing is I brought some pieces of biochar and taken one glass of water and was
trying to explain them the properties of biochar, how light it is, there is so much surface area
within it, and this is an excellent habitat for microbes and also for absorbing so many things in
the soil and removing the poison. And the community also, has helped me by explaining how
they use for different means, this biochar, locally. And so a kind of communication has built up
between me and the farmers, and Im grateful to those first three farmers who trusted me to plant
this biochar in large quantities in their fields. (David?) basically my research pioneering work is
into alkaline soil first. Because Ive taken alkaline soil as a challenge, with the biochar, no one
has taken dividends globally. So then these three farmers of course their fields are not fertile and
theyre not using them anymore (22:35). And those three fields have selected and two fields were
patty fields and one of them were these (for the cotton ring?). So when I explain to the farmers,
they took me to confidence and they applied as if(?). And the results were amazing. You could
see they could reclaim the field. You can just keen alkaline soil ?...?. There you see the website
and all the results also. And I praise for the whole village because it was an environment as long
with biochar and they got the result and today they are cultivating the fields without any help.
And this has become my first story and then I had been doing experiments on my roof also,
called rooftop terra plant(?) experiments. I have continued my research by understanding the
relationship between termites and biochar, ants and biochar. So I have traveled into forest areas
just to understand termites and this aspect. (23:51) So minutely for the elimination test (?) and
many other things have been taking up. And continued my daily life(?) and also visited parts of
India where remote tribal people are living and since they have been using they dont know what
is biochar nothing but their integrated, very much into their practice. And theyre successfully
doing. They never revealed this to anybody. And all this evidence has help me put my
commitment and understanding towards biochar and become a person to suggest and promote
this biochar compost everywhere wherever Ive been to link people. And Im very happy that at
least 10 major institutions in India, the prestigious agriculture institutions, they have taken it up
as their research now. They have brought up some PhD students now they are working already
and all these things have happened. And also I have trained the farmers in Bangladesh also.
And the latest is in Kenya. But apart from that in different parts of the world are all in this things
has been successfully motivating communities towards adopting(?). So its definitely a
multipronged approach that I have taken up and putting all the information on the website in the
form of blogs and radios and photos and probably I am the only person who has issued so much
because most people write papers. (25:33) Papers dont show pictures. They only do data
analysis. But my website and blogs and the links has (?) information which is very convenient
for the children also. So some of the children have adopted it as their project they are working
on it and very happy with the kind of results that are happening now.

(26:00)

L: Thats wonderful. Did you approach it in the same way when you went to Bangladesh and
Kenya and kind of convinced a couple farmers to do the technique and show everyone else?

A: Yeah exactly I always taken up simple means of explaining only because the science is very
simple if you want to explain. It is complex if you want to be sophisticated. So now definitely the
people have understood and there is not much for me to try to explain to them because now they
already, in many parts of the world, people have just started understanding this aspect and
imitate is some way. And I may not have put much stress in explaining to them. They can easily
understand now. Its not an issue. Only thing is that they are unable to understand the some of
processes. They are thinking, Im putting the charcoal in the soil and get results. They are
thinking we can dump all this biochar in any kind of field. They are not understanding where to
apply where not to apply why we should not waste the valuable biochar. So some of the things
they think and value are there. Biochar is not simple, the product by itself, because the
environmental impact also. People go crazy. And we should be there to explain all this simply to
all that, nobody is doing. So I think we need to bring up this ethical issue, biochar application,
and not only for scientific reasons but for the environment also. Because otherwise we are
wasting this valuable resource like every other petroleum product which we are already wasting.
Because people go crazy with subsidies and theyre just burning it off. See, petroleum has its
own value. We can use it systematically for various means. So they really need to understand the
whole thing. (28:10). So like the biochar should not become, another this kind of, an little aspect
in the war.

L: You were mentioning there were certain places and ways you have to apply to not waste it.
Can you tell me a little about those? Just some key points.

A: See in the amazon it is a high-rainfall area and the soils are acidic and definitely the biochar
was just required at that time (historically?). But let us say there is a very good fertile field and
the farmer wants to just apply it. Where should he apply? If it is fertile. Leave it. So theyre not
able to understand this aspect. So where there is less infertile. There they can apply it. Because
more conservation will be there and they will have good (pissing?). So there like that they
should understand certain aspects, no? And also, there they already, they never applied any kind
pesticides in the soil, it is very good. There they should also not struggle. So like that many
things are on their own (discern?). And also biochar without processing it, or composting it, we
should not apply it. Because if you apply directly then the results are sometimes slow and the
farmer gets discouraged by looking at the results. He should understand that the biochar
oxidation is an important process. Second thing is the inoculation of biochar is also an important
process. And how do we do it and what are the local other raw material that is (valuable?) for
this kind of processing biochar. So based on the (stints?) of the locally or local material, we
should create a methodology of creating biochar compost and also we should encourage initially
(point?) application is a low cost method. (30:32). Line application then spread application. So if
a farmer goes for straight application, if they demand that it also(?) biochar compost, are even
more. But there is a great loss because for the farmer sometimes the cost of biochar compost and
the recommended dose is close to the value of the piece of land it serves. So especially if you are
dealing with the poor farmers, (?) a farmer growing maize, why should he apply biochar?
Because maize is such a common crop in Africa, especially in Kenya. We should not encourage
the farmer to go for maize with biochar. Why? Because if it is a high valuable crop, then at least
he will get more income and at least it is the cost are taken care(?). So these things nobody is
getting now. So these things should be considered. So apart from that, without testing your soil,
there is a variability of application that also one should understand. (31:45) But also it is not the
same quantity and same kind of thing. So these things the scientific community has not worked
up on. And chemicals are the same composition. (Ureament?) same urea (?). The chemical
composition is the same and they dont have much variability. But within biochar said what
temperature is produced, with what is the (rom?) that biochar is produced and how do you
prepare the compost. What are the soil microbes that are there in your biochar compost? So
there are many aspects, variable factors which are here. So people think by looking at some
videos and some websites and data they think I know biochar. They think we should not make
mistakes and this science is still growing it should not be a costly thing for the farmers and it
should not bring negative name for this most valuable resource that will help the future
communities here.

(32:53)

L: So what do you recommend for the inoculation? What have you found works?

A: There is an interesting thing in inoculation which I myself developed. Its called geospirit
centers(?). Because through biochar and this energy, my life has gone into spirituality also. This
spirituality is not religious but it is for the spirit of earth. So here what it is, is I have just a
quarter of acre of land. There are 200 species of plants that could be just (facilitated?) for them
to grow. So this has become a most valuable place for my soil microbial biodiversity. And from
this place when I have extend a method biochar compost, it is yielded variable results. Like
growth of plants and everything. Then what happened is I could relate myself to these
biodiversity centers and I started encouraging the farmers and (??) those who have any amount
of land, please declare some part of land where you will not touch any kind of plant and let the
local biodiversity flourish. So in a way what is happening is that locally they have access to their
own microbial life for inoculation for their own field because they should not buy microbes from
somewhere else because it is a different geography. So local microbes are integrated into the
local soil and local weather conditions. So their soil is far better. This aspect I have brought in
and then the local biodiversity will have some birds and some insects and many things. (34:50)
Actually, if we had this biodiversity center in a field, even if there is an insect it is not going to
attack your farm. Why should it go there when there is so much biodiversity in that small place?
So it will remain there only. So like that you will not only help to protect your own field and you
can always inoculate your field with microbes, and you are helping the whole biodiversity
locally to thrive and for the future you are creating this geospirit center. So these kind of aspects
I have also brought in and now many farmers have gotten convinced. That they need to reserve
such kind of place in their fields and Im very happy because into the future if you see such
centers are the only hope for the biodiversity on this earth and many other values also which we
are have not even understood anything like here. So these are interesting things which have
happened when I was looking at inoculation methods. Apart from that, I always look at the local
traditional rituals, festivals and cultures and other things. So always I could find at least 2-3
aspects where people are doing some kind of festivals. And let us say there is one festival here in
our region. Its called (bonaloo?) and where the community especially just after the rains, there is
a small goddess and then they bring the animals, they sacrifice, and they spill all the blood of the
animal there. And apart from that they bring (jaggery?) they bring rice, (coco?) rice, they bring
different kinds of other food items and they also bring the (neme?) leaves there. And they put
everything on the soil. Remember that. They are not putting in a (???) they are putting on the
soil all this. And there is always (moistrated?) moment. So they leave it all over there and the
next day they collect all this material and then throw into the fields and around the village
completely. They try to cover different parts of the village, lands especially (37:22). Farm lands.
And usually the beauty is when you put (jaggery?) blood, the rice, (coco) rice, and the (neme)
leaves, and all this you see, they will help the good microbes to just thrive. When you spill in the
field. So there is a boom of all these microbes immediately. And the farmers get the good crop.
See these things are integrated already. And there is some fire and there is some ash and there is
some charcoal and everything is part of the same thing. So like that I try to explain that to the
communities also. How there is some value in doing all that. And the communities realized. So
therefore Im telling it. Knowingly, unknowingly, people are integrating things which are
relevant to biochar. I dont know why the biochar has been left out in the development process.
If scientists have been focusing more on biochar, one element of carbon, every year, we would
have found many issues. Of course now people have realized already. We have carbon
technologies everywhere. Even the materials are carbon and nanocarbon what we call
nanofertilizers we call. So there are different means of carbon that we are already utilizing now.
So good now at least people are on the right track of understanding this biochar in the name of
biochar at least.

(38:57)

L: So I guess youre saying one of the most important things is to embrace the culture and
practices that people already have and incorporate biochar?

A: You can modify slightly because some cultural practices are not 100% sustainable today. So
we can always integrate and modify them slightly. Let us say cremations that happen in India.
We dont go for burial grounds, we go for cremation, Hindu custom, many communities here.
So again the bone charcoal that is again biochar. So that goes into the field directly, but here they
burn openly, so instead of burning the body openly, you can carbonize the body. So in such a
way that more biochar is there and produced. Because wood is wasted in cremation, you can see
in the pictures online. So instead of that we can create a better cleanse(?) for cremations and less
of what is used and most of wood is converted into biochar rather then ash along with the bone
charcoal. I mean that wood is cremated, the bones will be also carbon because bone charcoal has
the highest value. Even it is part of medicine. And not of human beings, in general the bone
charcoal is also biochar. So like that instead of, thats what Im telling, the cultural practices of
openly putting a fire and then burning as part of cremation. Now we can create some efficient
methods where emissions are also less. So like that we need to look at different aspects and
modify them as part of the need (?).

(40:52)

L: Have you come across any obstacles when trying to implement these different biochar
projects and introduce for example the stove and other biochar technologies to people?

A: There is no obstacle and we require now millions of people understanding this and we require
many leaders like you people, varying people should be coming up. The thing is that awareness
is low. That is the only thing. But with research and then with lots of communication,
information websites like that, definitely the understanding will increase. Second thing is the
policy. Where economic policies are very negative. They give high subsidies for the chemical
fertilizers. That is a problem because chemicals give results very fast but the impact that it has on
the environment and the people who consume the food and the soil so that is very long term a
negative impact. So instead putting this uneven competition because now we dont have policies
to subsidize biochar. I dont mean we should subsidize but when there is something which is
already subsidized and you want to pay outright price of the biochar for the local communities, it
is uneven. It is unfair. So these unfair things are the hindrance for the communities competition
(?) it presents in some parts of the world. And which I have seen definitely because selling
biochar is far better livelihood than applying biochar because sometimes farmers think like that.
And we dont have the technological support to adapt efficient charcoal production systems.
(43:00) And globally also very less research has been done on these technologies and if anything
is done I can pay ten cent (?) that is all the cost here for the farmers. So I think now the policies
should look at these aspects and then the only thing now is (??) is policy. Apart from that we
need not prove what biochar is again. Ive already told that we just need to understand and tell
them in their own language that everybody understands.

(43:37)

L: What can biochar bring that other kinds of applications cant bring and other kinds of
techniques and stuff like that for the soil?

A: There are 100s of techniques, biochar is not alone. If you (apply violet?) also you get some
results. If you apply ??? (vermiculture?) you get some results. So there are 100s of ways you can
apply the (tanks?) it will also give you some results. Biochar is not the solution for all
geographies and all these things. Certainly we need to understand where it should be applied and
why it should be applied. So this aspect is the only important. So biochar is not the only product.
Because already we have so many chemicals and the things which are giving results. But it
doesnt mean that results is a sustainable, they are both not related. So here in biochar we are not
looking only sustainability carbon sequence station emission reduction. So the multiplier and the
multivalue things that are there in biochar makes it unique. So that is the only thing we need to
understand.

(45:14)

L: What potential do you see in, youre talking mostly about smaller scale biochar
implementation, but what do you think of large scale biochar implementation where there is a
centralized, large plant that makes a lot of biochar and sells it to people or something like that?

A: Again same thing. We need to have different models for different geographies. If it is an
industrialized countries where the farms are hundreds of hectares then a centralized production is
also fine. But if you are looking at small farmers like in Bangladesh, India, and many other
countries, we need to have decentralized because it empowers them. And definitely they dont
have employment throughout the year so they can add some value in the process. Or we can
encourage small decentralized local enterprises for the farmers. And we can centralize the
produce. Like vegetable farmers cultivate in their respective fields. But ultimately all the
vegetables come to a point. So like that we can have different models. So we need not say only
one model is good, another model is bad. It only is where we are working and what are the other
environments that we have there. So those things we have to look at.

(46:55)
L: Do you think there is a way to increase the success and spread of biochar and what needs to be
done to do that? In order to increase its success.

A: We dont have a very good platform. We international biochar initiative we should use but it
is more of a membership on a period basis but it is not like a union body. So we need to have a
common body, system, working on this aspect. Especially the standards we dont have. And we
have limitations of testing biochar because testing even one sample is lots of rupees. Because
if you want to go to the extent of what is the kind of microbe that is there, how many types of
microbes are there. So it is a costly business. It is not so simple. So we should have international
and neutral bodies, which can also criticize if anything wrong is going on with biochar. And
those kind of international bodies would be an important thing in promotion of the biochar.
Otherwise (??) industries and they have a short term interest and they only have interest in
making money. So business is different but we need to bring up a neutral board that is working
on that rather criticizing. Again we have to cope with the many critics also in the process.
Because biochar was included as part of hello?

L: Hello? I was just going to ask what are some of the criticisms that youve coped with.

(48:54)

A: Not me. But I told you because my approach has always been with the local farmers because
it was simple and it was never commercial. Because I empowered the people in doing what they
want with the biochar. But the product, they will not empower. They will only keep like a
secret. They will try and recover the r&d costs and many other things. So then the second issue
is people especially in centralized production systems, people are criticizing the unsustainable
means of harvesting the biomass and converting it into biochar. So they are also questioning if
you are an industry and you want to maximize profit you always increase your product
production, so it will have an impact geographically somewhere. So all these things, questions
are not (?) because different countries have different laws. Like already we have land grabbing in
the African countries. A criticism which is already going on. So land grabbing in the name of
biochar. Using this valuable.this biomass and then selling it as a biochar product. All there
are so many where even biofuels are another issues which have had criticism. So similarly we
should not get into that kind of system. Thats why Im telling we should have an independent
body which also permits the people to do or not to do something like that. Without this our
environment would be at stake, if you look purely at a business angle with biochar.

(50:52)

L: Would you say there are, what would you say are biochars best use in the developing in
general. I know you were saying its kind of different in different places, but say if you were
going to bring it places other then the places youve been, like India and Kenya and Bangladesh,
would you recommend similar strategies and similar kinds of applications?

A: Everywhere it can be used. Its not a thing for even if you go to the moon take some biochar
no problem. It will address many issues. So geographies there is no limitations. The only thing
especially in desert areas where the biomass is so little already, there definitely, it will have a
bigger impact. But those regions which require biochar if it causes the soil moisture and other
issues also, nutrient and etc. So always there we should be very cautious in going with the
productions system and encouraging farmers.

L: Do you think cook stoves are one of the best ways to kind of create the biochar?

A: Cook stoves are 100% one of the best ways but it hardly contures(?) 5% of the biochar
permits(?) in India. And even everyday you cook and there is biochar in your field it takes
several years. So a farmer cant wait no. (52:36) Why should he wait for the biochar. He wants
the results immediately, life is so small. So definitely other ways, whatever the biomass
cookstoves globally that we have already, they are contributing. Because if not my field in some
other field the biochar is going so even that much biochar is already there. Because you have
cook stoves, maybe the %age is less, let us say the traditional stove yields around 10% or 5%,
efficient stove will yield 15%, a gas fed stove will be 25% of biochar thats it. So 5% to 25%
some range is already there. So that much biochar is going into the soil already. So that way if
you take the stove is only a small aspect in building, so it takes so many years for the farmer to
see that very good results. Otherwise traditionally you see any backyard this thing, garden.
Because biochar from the cook stove immediately reaches the backyard garden. Many villages
you could see directly. So that is already happening. So because it is a small place, backyard is a
small place and the concentration of biochar is more (53:56). So we are already getting good
results. So that is already happening already on the small scale.

L: Is it important for farmers to have land tenure if theyre using biochar?

A: Land?

L: Land tenure like they will always own the land. They are not just renting it for example.

A: No biochar is the result of 1000 years minimum. So land tenure is a small thing in a farmers
life. So why should they go for that. Of course farmers should not think about long or short they
should think about their simple crop. Thats it. But usually if youre tenured let us tell the owner
after 5 years he will throw away the farmer and take the land. So definitely this person is not
interested to improve through biochar. Why should he improve through biochar? So this kind of
other interests will match. Which is not healthy. But definitely the tenure is not a question we
should not be looking at.

L: Would you say there is stuff that the biochar researchers in the scientific field could do to
help implementation in general?

(55:25)

A: Yea the scientists are very slow because they are more looking at papers rather than
converting this science for a common mans language. Because the scientific people getting
converted into a textbook and somewhere. Somebody is reading and somebody is making a
course out of it and understanding. All these are lengthy methods. One thing is there are 2-3
approaches. Let the science do its own research. What we should with common sense of the
results they should bring up at least on appointment basis biochar to the farmers. So there I think
definitely you take any scientific paper and you translate it into a common language and you give
it to the farmer. He gets very less meaning from that. So they are more in confusion rather than
understanding. So we need to convert into understandable kind of media. So there I think the
scientists should play a role immediately. Other ways, the lack of research and then application is
too much. That will kill a generation of farmers. Because for security and small farmers and
many other important issues are there already in the world which we should be addressing
immediately rather than waiting.

(56:54)

L: In general would you say there are some criteria for a place such as the kind of soil, or
whether the soil is degraded or not, or weather conditions, or the types of communities, those are
just some examples. But would you say there are sort of criteria you would recommend that
would make a place a good candidate for introducing biochar?

A: Exactly. For that reason only Im telling a neutral international body should emerge. We
should be working on these criteria and standardized those steps. It will help many people (??)
will do some kind of simple test and they will do what they want to do, otherwise if you apply
too much biochar a negative. If you apply too little also it is not optimal. Then how much
should you apply? You cant wait for research papers, no research paper gives a direct answer.
And people will go more specialized in research papers which will then integrate(?) the
holistic(?) signs. Like that there are many other issues no?

L: And is there anything else you would like to say about biochar? Just any information. Any
important points or anything you want.

(58:20)

A: I almost told everything I think. Just to recount, definitely in my life biochar has been an
inspiring thing and it has made me to understand what is life also, from the micro to macro. And
the meaning of many aspects. So definitely the biochar research of mine helped me to grow as a
human being and meeting so many farmers and traveling to distant distances and understanding
biodiversity and I definitely want to see biochar as an environmentally product rather than a
commercial product which exploits the resources and makes business to some companies but it
also brings a bad name. This is what I dont want to happen. It should be purely understood as a
cultural aspect. Thats why I call it biochar culture. And then we should integrate into the local
environmental systems and a sustainable development and adaptation. This much I can say.

L: Wonderful. Well, thank you so much for all of your knowledge and everything and for
speaking to me. Its been really, really useful and enlightening to me. Thank you very much and
good luck with all your work. It sounds amazing.

A: Thank you to you, Laura, because your interview brought some clarities within my mind also.
When you speak some things come out actually. They are somewhat torment, but those things
have also come out now which I feel very happy. But if you can send me the transcript of our
discussion it will be very great.

L: Yes okay I will do that.

A: It will be of great help to me. And it will acknowledge what you heard it in this interview.

L: Thank you very much and I will send you the transcript.

A: And all the best wishes to you.
L: You too, all the best wishes to you.

A: Thank you then. Bye.

L: Bye.