Trees, Water & People is excited to be a sponsor of the 3rd annual Americas Latino Eco Festival (ALEF), October 15-17 in Denver, Colorado, the largest multicultural environmental event of its kind leveraging Latino leadership for conservation gains.
ALEF establishes a home for advocates and leaders from the leading organizations with Latino constituencies and environmental mandates. ALEF advocates for an integrated local and national conservation agenda committed to advancing Latinos’ connections with nature and experience of the outdoors that in turn may inspire future stewardship of our natural resources. ALEF 2015 will launch an authoritative climate training program as well as call for actions on climate stewardship, land conservation, and the transition to renewable energies.
“This year’s festival, our third, is more ambitious and urgent than ever,” said Irene Vilar, founder of the festival. “We are turning the largest annual multicultural event of its kind into a powerful platform for advocacy on climate action and of course showcasing the arts as a most impactful vehicle for raising environmental awareness. With the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan in the implementation stage at the state level, and the upcoming climate talks in Paris this November, failure is not an option. If we hope to change the direction on climate change, advocates must come together!”
The festival involves over 400 presenters and advocates and an estimated audience of over 5,000 people during three days of presentations, workshops and celebrations at three venues in downtown Denver: Metro State University, Denver Art Museum and Denver Public Library.
On the morning of October 17, from 8:30-10:00am, TWP and Amazon Aid will co-host ALEF’s Breakfast with Bianca Jagger, to hear insights and perspectives that motivated ALEF to award the 2015 Nuestra Madre Award to this extraordinary activist for human rights and environmental justice.
Of all the memorable encounters during my ten days in Havana, Cuba for the 10th Convention on Sustainable Development and Environment in July, there is one that stood out most. A man stopped me between sessions and said he’d overheard I was from the U.S., and asked if I could help him identify someone from our delegation. Happy to help, I asked who he was looking for, and he said, “Sebastian Africano.” I almost fell backwards when he told me that he was from Guantánamo province (where my wife worked years ago), and that he was told to look for me by some of her former colleagues.
This man was Alexander Fernández, who works for the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment (CITMA), and is also a member of the Cuban Association of Agriculture and Forestry Technicians (ACTAF). His specialties are in Sustainable Soils Management and Conservation Agriculture, and he is based in one of the driest regions of Cuba. Meeting him opened the door to a crucial network of people working on climate adaptation strategies for rural populations in Cuba, and led to a flurry of private meetings after the conference.
Cubans have much to teach, having lived through the forced austerity of “The Special Period” that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union. During that time, Cuban people survived through solidarity and ingenuity, devising ways to produce their own food without the benefit of petrochemical and technological inputs. The lessons learned during these challenging times make Cuba a staunch ally in facing the challenge of climate change.
After an anemic 2014 harvest, several countries in Central America have reported net losses of staple crops in 2015 at over 60% due to drought, creating conditions of scarcity never before seen. Many of the approaches to agriculture and natural resource management that Alexander and his teams have been forced to adopt in Cuba hold pertinent lessons for those struggling in Central America.
This is where TWP’s model of leveraging local knowledge, building regional networks, and allocating resources to build rural resilience come into play. Over the next year, we seek to strengthen our bonds with Cuba, through educational exchanges involving our partners and donors, as well as by helping to fund local projects. Challenges as daunting as climate change require that we put our heads and resources together to find replicable and impactful solutions.
We are excited to announce the launch of our new and improved 100% Replanted website! The 100% Replanted Program offers businesses and individuals a way to easily and affordably offset their paper use by supporting Trees, Water & People’s Reforestation Programs in Latin America. We have designed simple-to-use paper calculators that will help you or your business determine your paper footprint. You can offset the paper from one event, one month of business, or your entire annual paper footprint. This innovative program allows you to reduce, reuse, recycle, and replant!
Trees Water & People and our local partners manage the planting and care for all the trees purchased through the 100% Replanted Program. The trees are planted on private and public lands throughout Central America. Since 1998, TWP has planted more than 5.6 million trees in Central America, Haiti, and the United States. Planting trees in Latin America has several important benefits: the cost of planting is low, the trees grow quickly in the tropical climate, and the tree nurseries create jobs for local people.
To learn more about how you or your business can become “100% Replanted” please visit www.replanttrees.org.
Come join us for a weekend of volunteering at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center (RCREC), headquarters of TWP’s Tribal Renewable Energy Program. On this trip, we will be getting RCREC ready for Winter, including putting on limestone coatings on our three straw bale and compressed earth block (CEB) buildings, and helping to close up the Solar Warrior Farm. We will also visit and help with construction of the CEB house we are building for Paul Shields and his family (Paul is the son of Leonard Peltier). This will be a great opportunity for learning and making new friends. We hope you can join us!
Where: Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center, Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota (Five hours from Fort Collins) When: Thursday, September 24th – Sunday, September 27th Who: Flexible volunteers who like adventure, hard work, and lots of fun. Volunteers 14-18 are welcome with adult supervision. Why: To continue our efforts to develop a unique regional renewable energy and alternative building training and demonstration Center for Native Americans.
Volunteers are invited to arrive any time on Thursday, September 24th. We will host full work days on Friday and Saturday and a half day on Sunday. Projects will end by 1:00 pm on Sunday, and volunteers are welcome to head home any time on Sunday, September 27th.
TWP will provide volunteers with meals and snacks during the trip.
Food purchased by TWP will be simple and tasty, but feel free to bring any other food/snacks you desire. TWP’s kitchen, cooking equipment and utensils will be available for use.
Volunteers will help in preparing all meals and with clean up.
All volunteers are responsible for their own transportation and related costs getting to Pine Ridge.
We will be happy to coordinate carpools where possible.
Our facility is located down a short dirt road. Many sedans have traveled it without any problems.
Lodging: We have 23 beds available in the Sacred Earth Lodge in three dormitory rooms. More beds are available in the loft of the Shop and Manufacturing facility. You should bring your own sleeping gear if at all possible, though some of ours will also be available.
While it could be getting chilly by then, volunteers who would like to camp on the RCREC property can do so, but they must bring their own camping equipment (tent, sleeping bag and pad, etc.).
World Centric is a socially responsible company that provides zero waste solutions to reduce environmental impact. They envision a world where everyone’s basic needs are met with a beneficial impact on the environment. In order to be a self-sustaining organization, World Centric began selling Fair Trade products and compostable products in 2005. Since 2009, World Centric has offset all its carbon emissions from raw material to delivery, given at least 25% of its profits to grassroots social and environmental organizations (38% in 2011 and 90% in 2012) and offered discounts to schools and non-profits. World Centric became a certifiedB-Corp in 2010 and converted to a California Benefit Corporation in May 2013.
Carbon Offset Impact
As part of their annual carbon offsetting activities, World Centric recently made a donation to Trees, Water & People’s Clean Cookstove Program to offset 1,300 tons of carbon dioxide by supporting the construction of 260 clean cookstoves in western El Salvador, positively impacting the health and well-being of 600 people.
In Latin America, there are still millions of families who are dependent on wood to cook every meal, creating environmental and human health problems throughout the region. TWP’s clean cookstoves are designed to reduce indoor air pollution by up to 80 percent and cut fuelwood use in half. Field research using Kitchen Performance Test methodology have shown that TWP’s Justa cookstove reduces carbon emissions by an average of 1.65 tons a year over traditional stoves.
“World Centric is a company that is not driven by profit, but by doing good in the world. We are deeply moved by the current social inequalities and the impact on the environment. We also understand that we are part of the economic/political system that creates and perpetuates these issues. Supporting clean cookstoves is a very small way we can offset our impact both socially and environmentally.” – Aseem Das, Founder and CEO of World Centric
We are honored to work with World Centric to improve livelihoods and the environment in El Salvador. World Centric’s commitment to social responsibility, and their long history of acting on those commitments, sets an example for all businesses. To learn more about World Centric please visit their website: www.worldcentric.org
In the north central region of Nicaragua, 80% of families are dependent on coffee for their livelihoods. In the rural areas where farmers are scratching out a living – growing coffee and living off the land to feed their families – 68% of the population does not have access to electricity, one of the lowest electrification rates in Central America (IDB, 2010). The closer you get to the “last mile”, as we have done on a recent trip to the remote farming village of Chachagua , the more families you will find struggling to survive on only a few dollars per day.
TWP Assistant International Director, Lucas Wolf, and I had the pleasure of staying with a local family during our four days in the community as part of a trip with our local partners, buildOn and GivePower. Jorge Perez Talavera, his wife Damaris Godoy Garcia, and their 17 year old daughter, Ara Yorleniz Perez Godoy, welcomed us into their small home, which has no running water or electricity. At night, situated around their rudimentary stove, Damaris and Ara Yorleniz cooked us hot meals: rice, beans, and tortillas overflowing with Nicaraguan flavor and love. We spent a lot of this time laughing together, finding that Nicaraguan humor is fueled by sarcasm. My kind of humor! We also had the opportunity to discuss the harsh reality of life in the campo, living off the land and relying on family and community to survive.
The closest town to Chachagua is Murra, a rough, 2-hour drive by truck or motorbike. No buses drive this far back into the mountains, making agriculture a necessity for income generation and for feeding your family. Rows of coffee plants dot the hills, along with other crops like maize, beans, banana trees, squash varieties, and root vegetables.
Down the hill from Jorge’s small adobe home sits his tree nursery, where he is currently growing 4,300 coffee seedlings and a variety of fruit trees. He uses organic methods to grow the coffee, such as mixing garlic and cayenne for use as a pesticide. During the coffee harvest, Damaris and Ara Yorleniz help Jorge pick the ripe, red coffee cherries by hand.
“All of us spend long days together to harvest the coffee. It’s very hard work and the whole family helps.”
For the subsistence farmers in this region, who depend on the land for their survival, climate change is not a far off threat that they casually discuss. Climate change is happening. Right now. There is no debate about how or if a changing climate will affect them, the question is how will they adapt and survive. I invite climate deniers to visit Chachagua and tell the families here that climate change is a hoax.
“We have noticed a big change in the weather and temperatures over the past six years. The rains come later now and it’s much warmer, which affects how our coffee grows.”
In Nicaragua, temperatures are rising, drought is the new norm (and flooding when it does eventually rain), and crop disease is devastating, especially to rural coffee farmers and landless farm workers. The nation consistently ranks in the top ten among the places most affected by climate change (Global Climate Risk Survey). Coffee is Nicaragua’s second largest agricultural export earner. In 2012-13 an outbreak of La Roya (coffee leaf rust), which spread to 37% of the crop, cost $60M in losses. Small farmers like Jorge, who have no extra money to purchase fertilizers, have been hit hard by La Roya. When their mature coffee plants die from the rust, new seedlings can be planted, but they take three years to produce coffee. And, when there is no coffee there is no money.
When we discuss ways that farmers like Jorge are adapting, everyone we talk to points to reforestation as a top priority for improving all aspects of the local environment. Even the highest levels of government in Nicaragua are supporting practices like crop diversification and shade grown coffee, which improves soil and watershed health while protecting farmers from crop failure. With more diversity, and less dependence on one crop, families can survive when diseases like La Roya hit.
On our last morning with the family, we all gather around the kitchen fire drinking coffee. It’s been pouring rain all night, a welcome return of moisture after days of no rain (and it’s supposed to be the “rainy season” in Nicaragua). Damaris has prepared a chicken for us, an incredibly generous gesture for a family living at this level of poverty. Lucas takes this time to express our gratitude for their hospitality:
“We know it is a hard life out here. We recognize that and we want to support you in any way possible. To see a family that is so happy together and so welcoming to strangers like us has really touched our hearts. Thank you for letting us into your home.”
Jorge responds, with a smile, “No matter what, the most important thing in life really is happiness.”
by Bonnie Young, Postdoctoral Research Fellow,Colorado State University
As a crispness starts to sharpen the August nights in Fort Collins, it can only mean two things: 1) fall is nipping at the heels of summer, and 2) it’s time to head back to Honduras. Admittedly, the summer in Colorado has been luxurious with yoga classes, buttercream cupcakes, and Internet access everywhere- all things decidedly unavailable in the small town of La Esperanza, Honduras where we do our cookstove fieldwork.
The past three months in Colorado has also given my colleagues and me an opportunity to dig into the rich data we collected from 525 women across 14 farming villages from September 2014 through May 2015. Of this sample, we had 85 women who owned a Justa cookstove and answered questions about stove preferences and behaviors.
Initial Findings from Justa Cookstove Users
The Justa (pronounced ‘who-sta’) clean cookstove, originally designed by Trees, Water & People and engineers from the Aprovecho Research Center, is a cleaner-burning cookstove with an insulated combustion chamber in a “rocket elbow” shape with a built-in chimney to ventilate toxic smoke from the home. The majority of Justa stoves in this region of Honduras are provided by non-governmental organizations, and most women (92%) in our sample supplied materials or paid some money to help with construction costs of their stove. Over 95% of Justa stove owners in our sample reported their Justa stove was better than their traditional stove to cook tortillas, keep smoke out of the house, and maintain cleanliness. Every single woman with a Justa in our sample said that it used less wood than their traditional stove. These findings are especially important considering that on average, our sample of Justa owners use their stoves for 10 hours a day!
There are other models of improved stoves in this region, too. Our preliminary data suggest some differences between these models regarding their efficiency and condition. For example, 74% of Justa stoves were still in good condition based on researcher observation, while only 42% of the other improved stoves were in good condition. There are many possible reasons for these differences. One reason might be that the technicians that build the Justa stoves spend time teaching the owner how to clean and maintain their stove. This education is crucial to help owners understand how to properly use their new stove and keep it working well for the long-term.
We are learning that there is so much more to explore about stove use in this area. Our next round of the study aims to build Justa stoves for 300 women between the ages of 25-55 years. We plan to carefully measure their health and household air pollution over time to see if there are improvements as they transition away from their traditional stove.
As we pack our bags to head back to Honduras for four months of fieldwork during the rainy season (or should I call it the downpour season?), I find myself weighing the pros and cons of doing meaningful work in a developing country, versus the sinful delight of my favorite vanilla cupcake at Buttercream. Sigh. Cookstoves win, again.