As the holiday season nears, we wanted to take a moment to express our gratitude for you, our friends and generous donors, who make our work possible. We are so thankful for your continued support and we hope you know that we’re honored you have chosen to be a member of our community.
Over the past 18 years, we have helped tens of thousands of people live healthier, happier lives, while also protecting and conserving the environment. Our work is community-based, which means nothing gets done without groups of people coming together and working to make the world better for themselves and others. To see this cooperation and dedication to people and the planet is humbling to say the least. I really believe there is nothing that can stop us when we work together!
Volunteers, staff members, donors, program partners, community members – all from diverse walks of life – are the lifeblood of our organization. And, we truly are making a difference. Thank you!
Since 1998, Trees, Water & People has been working with our partners and local community members to design clean cookstoves that greatly reduce deadly indoor air pollution, deforestation, and high fuel costs. These cookstoves are designed according to specific cooking needs and cultural context, which is why they can look very different from country to country. However, all of these stoves have one important thing in common: they make cooking much safer for women and their families.
To learn more about Trees, Water & People’s Clean Cookstove Program please click here.
Armando Hernandez, Program Director of our local counterpart Árboles y Agua para el Pueblo (AAP), and I visited Panchimalco on my last day of a productive and informative first visit (with TWP) to our El Salvador projects. The first thing that stands out about Panchimalco is how close it is to San Salvador. Armando picked me up in the early morning and we were out of the truck and walking the streets on the hunt for coffee within 30 minutes.
By comparison, the drive out to Árboles y Agua para el Pueblo´s main base of operations, El Porvenir, takes upwards of 75 minutes depending on the traffic. The shorter journey was a nice change of pace and it´s worth mentioning that Panchimalco is literally a breath of fresh air. It sits on the side of a lush mountainside and maintains a colonial air about it, mixed with significant indigenous influences.
On a brief walk to the park we took in a newly constructed sculpture garden and Oscar Ernesto Vasquez Alas, an official with the Environmental Office of the Municipality of Panchimalco, informed us that one of the colonial buildings had been turned into a language center where Nahuatl classes are provided for about 50 community members. The quest to keep indigenous languages alive and well is always impressive and speaks highly to Panchimalco´s strong emphasis on arts and culture.
“We have invested in the polideportivo (a youth sports complex), a vegetable garden and greenhouse, a water park with three pools, and we have also increased our commitment to the arts and culture. Additionally, we continue to raise awareness of the importance of our forests and watershed. This reforestation campaign day helps further that movement. These types of investments have actually helped to increase security in the main urban area of our town and the youth are now more optimistic about possibilities here.” – Oscar Ernesto Vasquez Alas
AAP and TWP provided 100 of the cacao trees for the reforestation campaign and several dozen cashew trees for shade around the fields and peripheral areas of the water park that was recently constructed. Through these types of events, Armando hopes to cultivate a stronger working relationship with Panchimalco, as he looks to expand the AAP presence into other areas of El Salvador.
Partnerships between TWP, AAP, and local governments are important to our conservation work in Central America, providing a model for collaboration and innovation. Stay tuned for updates from El Salvador as we expand to other regions of the country!
The digital edition of our bi-annual newsletter, Forests Forever, is now available for your reading pleasure. In this edition, you will enjoy news and updates from our Board, Program Directors, and other staff who are working every day to make our programs successful and sustainable. Thanks for reading and please share with a friend too!
Director Avi Lewis’ new film, This Changes Everything, asks the question, “What if confronting the climate crisis is the best chance we’ll ever get to build a better world?” The film attempts to “reimagine the vast challenge of climate change.”
The documentary was inspired by award-winning author Naomi Klein’s critically acclaimed bestselling non-fiction book, This Changes Everything. Published in 2014, it debuted at #5 on the New York Times list and was named to multiple Best of 2014 lists, including the New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2014.
The film based on the book presents seven powerful portraits of communities on the front lines of climate change, from Montana’s Powder River Basin to the Alberta Tar Sands, from the coast of South India to Beijing and beyond.
We had the honor of welcoming the film crew to the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center in March of 2013 where they filmed one of our solar energy workshops for Native Americans. It was hosted in partnership with Lakota Solar Enterprises, Solar Energy International, and the National Wildlife Federation’s Tribal Lands Conservation Program.
Students from the Cheyenne River Tribe expanded on their knowledge and interest in solar energy. They gained hands-on experience in the installation of solar PV systems, learning how harnessing the power of Mother Nature can provide independence from our current energy system.
With Klein narrating the film, connecting the carbon in the air with the economic system that put it there, the film weaves together these students’ stories and other stories of struggle, culminating with the idea that, “we can seize the existential crisis of climate change to transform our failed economic system into something radically better.”
Naomi Klein says, “when I finally stopped looking away, traveled into the heart of the crisis, met people on the front lines, I discovered so much of what I thought I knew was wrong. And I began to wonder: what if human nature isn’t the problem? What if even greenhouse gases aren’t the problem? What if the real problem is a story, one we’ve been telling ourselves for 400 years.”
We are excited to be hosting three screenings of the film in November:
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.