A Visit to Cloud Nine

by Jeff Hargis, Trees, Water & People Board Member

Cloud Nine Recycling

A road trip to Phoenix to pick up my son provided a great opportunity for me to stop in Tuba City, AZ and visit Tyler Tawahongva, a Hopi member of the Coyote Clan, and the winner of Trees, Water & People’s 2014 Green Business in Indian Country Start-Up Award.

It was a bright and mild December day on the Navajo Reservation, and I was fortunate to catch Tyler on a day when he was loading a rental truck with tons (literally!) of recyclable materials for his regular trip to buyers in Phoenix.  So I was able to get a close-up look at his Cloud Nine recycling operation.

The operation requires a lot of work:  card board to bundle, aluminum cans and plastic bottles to sort and bag, and all kinds of electronics and appliances to be mined for steel, aluminum, and especially copper wire, which can fetch over two dollars per pound.  Tyler is looking to hire additional help which would allow him to process more material.

There are also many variables that can influence the profitability of the recycling business.  As Tyler showed me around, he was continuously bringing up ideas and asking questions regarding improvements to his operation.  Purchasing a baler would allow Tyler to process more cardboard and transport more per load to Phoenix.  The purchase of a utility trailer would eliminate the cost of renting a truck for transporting the material, not to mention the 150 mile round trip from Tuba City to the truck rental operation in Flagstaff.  All of these ideas provide opportunity for a little more profit for Cloud Nine, and a lot less waste going to the local landfill.

Tyler was able to finish loading the 16’ yellow rental truck ahead of sunset for the trip to Phoenix the following morning.  I lent a hand with the loading as we talked about Cloud Nine Recycling. I learned a lot about the ins and outs of the business.  I was impressed by the energy Tyler puts into the effort, and the ideas he has for the future.  With the TWP Green Business Start-up Award, these dreams for improving and growing the business have become real possibilities for Tyler.

I encourage you to support Tyler through his GoFundMe campaign so he can continue the great work he is doing within his community!

Notes from the Field: Generations of Knowledge and Experience Converge

Guatemala apiculture workshop

by Sebastian Africano, International Director

A lot of my recent “firsts” have been in Guatemala, while working with TWP partner Utz Che’ – an umbrella group for 36 campesino organizations throughout this vast country. Through Utz Che’ I met the community of La Bendición – a displaced population of some 100 families from San Marcos, who were resettled in the south east of the country, in the Department of Escuintla.


Since 2011 a group of young men from La Bendición has been approaching me very formally, seeking support for some community projects they were getting off the ground. Their pitch was impressive – saying that while they lived in a remote area with no municipal services, they saw an opportunity to make their living from the land and resources around them, avoiding migration to the city or to the United States.

After three years of visits, I have never been let down by these guys – they’ve planted tens of thousands of trees, thousands of pineapples, and have a small enterprise producing honey.  So, when they asked me to support them getting additional training in bee keeping to improve their business, I made it a priority to see that it happened.

Guatemalan honey

Guatemalan honey

For two days in November 2014, a group of 16 beekeepers from the Utz Che’ broad network of partners came together at the Meso-American Permaculture Institute (IMAP) on the south shore of Lake Atitlán to receive an apiculture workshop from local expert Genaro Simalaj. The participants ranged in age from 16 to 70 years, and were from throughout Guatemala – three generations of knowledge and experience in one powerful convergence.

When participants were asked in an introductory circle what bees meant to each of them, responses included “they are part of my family”, “they are who give life to nature through pollination”, “a healthful economy” and “they are the scientists that do with nature what no one else can”.  We then spent two days studying and splitting hives, collecting honey, and learning from each other in the mountains around Lake Atitlán.

This workshop was a reminder to me of the importance of my work at TWP – a fulcrum between the aspirations of rural communities and the resources that help them become reality. David Bautista, the unwavering leader of the youth group from La Bendición said that “when the adults are no longer here, it’s us (the youth) who are going to have to guide this ship”. My role, as I see it, is just to fan the sails.

Guatemalan apiculture

Join TWP on a work tour to the community of La Bendición the week of March 15 – 22 to build clean cookstoves, work in the tree nursery, learn about bee keeping, and help fix a water system. A great way to travel while giving back!  Register by Dec. 31 for a 5% discount: www.treeswaterpeople.org/worktour

Happy Colorado Gives Day!

donateToday is Colorado Gives Day! Join with thousands of other donors who will come together today to support Colorado nonprofits on this annual day of giving.

Help us reach our goal of raising $20,000 in 24 hours for community-based conservation programs that help people and the planet.

What you need to know about Colorado Gives Day:

  • Colorado Gives Day is today, December 9, from 12:00am – 11:59pm. 24 hours of giving!
  • You don’t have to be from Colorado to participate.
  • Every gift will be increased by a $1 million Incentive Fund!

To schedule your donation for Colorado Gives Day please click here and choose “CO Gives Day” under donation type – it’s that easy.

Thank you for your generosity and support on this day of giving!

Project Update: Matching Loans for Women Farmers in Haiti

Haitian women farmers

by Sebastian Africano, International Director


In late October 2014, I was able to travel to Haiti to meet with our partners at the Local Capacity Alliance (LOCAL), who have taken over all field activities for the Ananda Marga Universal Relief Team (AMURT). Once at the project site, six hours northwest of Port-au-Prince, we launched into three days of visiting tree nurseries, reforestation sites, farm plots, and the Self Help Groups (SHGs) who will be supported by these Catapult funds throughout the coming year. Far from being the timid, poor victims on the margins of an economically challenged society, the women members of the Self Help Groups groups have taken charge of their development, and are dedicated to the notion of lifting themselves out of poverty. One testament to their success was a recent award received by LOCAL’s Self Help Group coordinator Remise Belizaire, recognized as Digicel’s “Entrepreneur of the Year” for the region – an honor bestowed on 10 outstanding leaders per year in Haiti.

Risks and challenges

As the Self Help Group program grows, it places increasing levels of responsibility on the members of each group to manage their growth, keep their leaders in check, and to deal cooperatively with problems. Some groups have had members withdraw from the group and take their capital with them, which destabilizes the rhythm of the group and shrinks the pot of money available for loans. Even though they can only leave with what they actually deposited, a new member recruited to replace the old does not deposit the same amount in replacement, so the group’s capital is reduced.

Haiti Self-Help Group

Get personal

“The Self Help Groups are not only for us to make money, it has also shown us how to live together, to collaborate, and how to work in groups”

“Our husbands have begun to understand the benefits we’ve been gaining from our Self Help Group, and have asked LOCAL to help start groups for men following the example of the women.”

Next steps

LOCAL has just hired two Haitian Agronomists to manage the program, and they are in the process of developing a strategic plan for 2015, including activities with the Self Help Groups. Initially they will focus on working with the them to improve agricultural productivity, increase the use of tree crops and orchards, and to produce Moringa powder, a locally grown superfood, for sale and local consumption.

To learn more about this project please visit Catapult.org!

Happy #GivingTuesday!


#GivingTuesday is an international celebration of giving back! Give love. Give time. Give money. Just give!

We hope you will consider donating to Trees, Water & People on this day of giving by making a contribution to our programs that help people and the planet. Thanks for your support on this special day of giving!


Advice on Starting a Green Business: “Give it your best and go for it!”


The voice of experience is powerful. It is one thing to read about or imagine starting your own business for the first time, but hearing stories from those who have been there – maybe even several times – is invaluable to inspiring the aspiring entrepreneur.

We were lucky to have Bernard Cuny, current owner of Cuny Tree Farm in Allen, SD, come speak with our Green Business Development Training attendees back in July. Each of the trainees were there to solidify their business idea – solar energy for homes, guest lodge, tree farm, alternative agriculture, just to name a few. Learning to create a business plan and budgets are good basic skills to have, but inspiration and encouragement really help with the intense personal and emotional investment needed.

Bernard has worked the tree farm for over 10 years, and he says it’s important to always try your best even when the work gets hard. Having his name on his business has meant his personal reputation is on the line with each tree sold and each call made.  “You can do 10,000 good things, but if you do one bad thing, people will forget the 10,000 things,” he explained. “But once you’ve made up your mind to do something, you just give it your best and go for it.”

Lonna and Wade Livermont also shared their entrepreneurship story. They already have their feet wet with business ownership. They raise beef cattle, and Lonna makes quilts. Running a tree farm fits into their idea of having income from different sources, which is a smart idea for those in remote rural areas. Farming and ranching are challenging in a climate that has been filled with hail, tornadoes and devastating floods and blizzards in the last couple of years. It is encouraging that hope springs eternal for the Livermonts, who are doubling down on a land-based business.  “You just never give up,” says Lonna, “Never, ever.”

Fast forward to this month when Trees, Water & People began its Green Business in Indian Country Start-Up Award work with 2014 winner, Tyler Tawahongva of Cloud Nine Recycling. Tyler also faces many challenges in his efforts to not only do recycling on the front lines, but also educate his community about the need for recycling.


Tyler has been working with a local business development program in the greater Flagstaff area –the Native American Business Incubator Network (NABIN) – headed up by Natasha Johnson (Dine’). A project of The Grand Canyon Trust, they seek to develop local economies by giving technical support to Native entrepreneurs. And like TWP, their mission includes strengthening those tribal businesses as a way to build capital and jobs, which in turn give job seekers alternatives to the large energy industries that often dominate the economic landscape (literally and figuratively) in Native communities.

The current cohort of entrepreneurs in NABIN include a bed and breakfast, a Navajo language program, graphic design, videography and recycling. Each of these businesses will be able to create jobs in their local areas, and in some cases, across Indian Country. TWP is happy to collaborate with NABIN to extend Tyler’s network and customer reach with a new website and marketing materials. We will be helping him launch those business essentials as “Team Tyler”.

Tyler is also already extending his network within the recycling industry to include a larger diversity of materials and clients. His work benefits many people in the Tuba City area in small ways through buying/selling cans, and larger ways through diverting many tons of cardboard and paper from the landfills. Being a smaller business, he can also be more responsive to calls from people who have materials they need picked up for recycling. Tyler speaks from the voice of experience – recycling, care for the environment, leadership in his community. By this time next year, he will also have his stories to share with others who want to start a business from scratch as a mentor in TWP’s Green Business Development Program.

Support Tyler and Cloud Nine Recycling! Through generous donors – TWP Board Member Jeff Hargis and a family foundation – all contributions to this campaign will be matched dollar for dollar!


Support TWP While You Holiday Shop!


Doing any of your holiday shopping online? When you order from AmazonSmile, Amazon donates 0.5% of the purchase price to Trees, Water & People. This is an easy way to support our programs, so sign-up today!

Bookmark this link http://smile.amazon.com/ch/84-1462044 and support us every time you shop!

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