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Belize Cool Lab

A SIMPLE-SCALABLE-SHOVEL READY 

PROTOTYPE FOR GLOBAL APPLICATION

This project will launch a self-sustaining riparian protection, biodiversity restoration, and coral regeneration program for the economic development of the Toledo District of Belize. Once established, the program will be sustained by an agroforestry-based carbon-dioxide removal (climate positive) microenterprise hub, supplying renewable energy, food and water security, equal employment opportunity, and climate change resilience by transforming biomass waste products into useful commodities, energy and drawdown.

The Executing Entity is the Maya Mountain Research Farm, an accredited non-profit organization in Belize. Other implementing partners include Carbon Gold Ltd., Cool Design Group, Cloudburst Foundation, Gaia University, Global Village Institute for Appropriate Technology, Global Ecovillage Network, Husk, Plenty Belize, Toledo Institute for Development and Environment, San Pedro Columbia Village Council, and Toledo Alcaldes Association.

At the present stage of development we seek philanthropic grants and/or junior debt to construct a prototype village-scale biorefinery we are calling the “Cool Lab.” In a series of phases, we will assess the impact of this project with detailed surveys of the region—biodiversity, economic and demographic metrics, environmental issues, and cultural norms and preferences—to later serve as a baseline by which to measure success and areas for needed improvement. Because drawdown and climate change reversal are overarching goals, we will also need to chart the carbon footprint of all phases of the program, with special attention to the long-term operational phase.

Prior to any site work, it is imperative to build social capital and partnerships with all of the stakeholders and influencers and bring them into the design process. In San Pedro Columbia, Belize, this phase began more than five years ago.

The next requirement is to perform engineering and architectural studies, placing the facility into the social context of the existing village. We will design access roads, transportation and loading infrastructure, receiving and handling processes, and the equipment and buildings required for the site. We will closely examine the economic potentials of various products and services and design a first stage enterprise hub best suited to early success. We will also catalog the entire design process for future replication and improvement.

Although the core aspects of biomass-to-biochar quantification are scientifically sound and reasonably understood, many practical issues require study and development. These include tropical soil carbon fluxes, robust life-cycle accounting, macroeconomic leakage, social impacts, and ecosystem benefits. We propose to help clarify these issues by gathering and sharing scientific and commercial data of high relevance.

Following the various types of design work, a primary implementation phase will lay the foundations, build the roads, bring in necessary utilities, and erect the biorefinery facility.

Operations would ensue, gradually building up regional feedstock supply capacity, a trained and enthusiastic workforce, and a network of enterprises, arrayed as local village cooperatives, each with specific domains of products and services. Creation of a cooperative bank would be one way to organize the rapid development of affiliated businesses.

Profit shares from affiliates to the program will fulfill the wishes of stakeholders for provision of improvements to essential services in the village—clean water, primary school, health clinic, town hall, safety patrol, etc.

As this is a demonstration project, the implementation phase will also include construction of facilities and creation of services to handle visitors and permit them to easily understand both the technology and the equitable social process at its core.

At regular intervals that follow, there will be standardized monitoring of the metrics for success established at the outset. Based upon these evaluations, program modifications can be made.

It is our belief that within 3 to 5 years, the program will be self-sustaining and have become a training center to allow similar efforts to proliferate in the region and the larger world. This is a proof of concept project.

We estimate that the early project design phase, including development of a detailed budget and financial projections, will require $750,000 (all numbers are US dollars unless otherwise specified). The proposal identifies this as “Immediate Need.” Architectural and engineering studies and the baseline cultural and environmental impact surveys require an additional $750,000. That work can commence as soon as funds are available. The implementation and operational stages for the first 3 years will require $5 million; an estimated $12 to 14 million over the first 5 years.

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