Notes from the Field: TWP and PROLEÑA Unveil the Nicaraguan National Climate Change Center

by Jon Becker, TWP Board President

Richard and I are up at 5:30 for a quick breakfast at Hotel Don Quijote before Marlyng Buitrago comes to pick us up for our first field day in Nicaragua.  Marlyng is the sharp, do-everything force of nature who significantly drives PROLEÑA, our in-country partner here of many years.  We travel through the Managua morning light and teeming crowds of pedestrians – people heading to jobs, uniformed kids on their way to school.  First stop – Managua Channel 14, where we are guests on a chatty morning talk show.  Marlyng has arranged the publicity as part of this week’s upcoming event to mark the inauguration of the Nicaraguan National Climate Change Center, a partnership dreamed up by TWP and PROLEÑA, with additional support from ECPA, the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas.  The talk is about clean cookstoves, reforestation, help for the poor, renewable energy, and Nicaragua taking a leadership role in the whole Central American region in facing a changing future.  We wrap up, run out the door, and dash across town to Channel 12, where we do the same thing over again.  This time we follow a local rap group, which I hope has the TV audience charged up to hear our message.  It’s all live TV, and I’d say Richard and Marlyng nail it in one take (as if they had a choice!).

(L to R) Marlyng Buitrago, Richard Fox, and Jon Becker at the site of the new Nicaraguan National Climate Change Center.

Now it’s field time, we get back in the PROLEÑA truck, and head out of Managua to the northwest, with the huge expanse of Lake Managua on our right, El Volcan Momotombo peeking in and out of our horizon.  Instantly, the urban, barrio scene of Managua gives way to rural and open space, scattered trees (due to decades of over cutting), and dessicated grasslands (we’re in the middle of the dry season now).  About 45 kilometers up the road, in the rolling hills near La Paz Centro, we pull over at a nondescript spot along the road, get out, and remove a section of fencing so we can begin our walk on a piece of land we helped PROLEÑA purchase last year.  These six acres probably have an assortment of rural agricultural past lives, including cattle grazing, and we find a few fruit trees as we walk.  But Marlyng’s eyes and spirit are charged as she gives us the tour of the future home of the Nicaraguan National Center for Climate Change.  

Inauguration of the Nicaraguan National Climate Change Center

PROLEÑA has spent the last decade inventing itself as a leader in reforestation, clean cookstoves, and bio-mass energy issues, and now dares to imagine embracing an even broader agenda of critical environmental and development issues facing their people.  She tells us of plans for classroom buildings, cookstove production facilities, tree planting areas, and renewable energy demonstrations.  It gives me chills to squint my eyes and imagine this becoming real.  Challenges – financial, political, and practical – and years of hard work stand in between us in these empty fields and one day seeing the National Climate Change Center serving all of Central America.  But today, alongside Marlyng and Richard, I am a believer.  This work will be possible with the combined efforts of PROLEÑA, ECPA, and you, as a supporter of Trees, Water & People.

Marlyng shows off a three-burner Emelda clean cookstove at the PROLEÑA office in Managua, Nicaragua.

The Center will have a variety of renewable energy and energy efficiency demonstrations including the solar electric array, a full series of Cleantech solar products, and various clean cookstove models and kilns. In addition, it will focus on researching and transferring best practices for integral forest management to the Nicaraguan forestry community and industry. The Center is being developed as an educational demonstration site that will help institutions, NGOs, and Community-based Organizations (CBOs) learn how to adapt to climate change.

This project is made possible through funding from the ECPA’s energy and climate awards. Trees, Water & People, along with partner organizations, are  implementing “Improving Access to Clean Energy in Latin America.” The project activities will contribute to ECPA’s efforts to promote clean energy, low carbon development, and climate-resilient growth.

In the coming years, we will have many exciting updates on our work with ECPA in Central America. We hope you will stay tuned!

To learn more about TWP’s work with ECPA click here.

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Trees, Water & People is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to developing sustainable community-based conservation solutions.

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