by Elliot Cooper, International Program Coordinator
For being slightly smaller than Massachusetts, El Salvador has a myriad of different cultures, socioeconomic realities, and geographic features. We’re now on our last day in this wonderful country, having spent three very long work days out in the field, observing, facilitating, questioning, smiling, and laughing.
We headed out early on our 1st field day, leaving San Salvador with our in-country counterparts Arboles y Agua para el Puelo (AAP) a bit before 7:30am. We drove east along the main artery of El Salvador until we hit San Miguel, and then turned north for an hour before running into San Francisco Gotera. From here, we took our vehicle out of two wheel drive and went into 4×4 mode as we headed up into the hills to meet with our first Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV), Andrew Niiro, who is facilitating the building of Justa clean coookstoves in his community of Gualindo Arriba located high in the hills above Gotera.
Andres, as everyone calls him, has built more than 20 clean cookstoves, as part of the Peace Corps and TWP’s work with the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas (ECPA) “Improving Access to Clean Energy in Latin America” initiative. After we met Andres’ community counterpart Rosa Gonzalez, we had a quick meeting to introduce parties and move through the formal motions of Latin American culture. We presented Rosa and Andres with their official ECPA tiles (a 15×15 cm tile shown in the photo below) that they will adhere to every Justa stove built within the project.
This first year, AAP has been charged with building 300 stoves, as with the next two years, making 900 in total. With our fiscal year ending on September 30th, AAP has entered more than 10 communities and constructed more than 275 Justa clean cookstoves, which will offset more than 1,650 tons of carbon emissions during their lifetimes. This number is impressive, but even more so when you think about the reality of AAP’s monetary limitations, the harsh roads of the country, and the amount of time that goes into training local stove builders, teaching stove beneficiaries how to correctly use their cookstoves, and monitoring activities down the line that will ensure successful use and maintenance of the cookstoves.
We had a great time- albeit sweating profusely- out in the Eastern region of El Salvador, visiting another community hosting a PCV invested in the Justa cookstove project, and then hit the road for our four hour journey back to San Salvador. Over the next two days, we headed north towards the Honduran border, meeting up with yet another PCV implementing a project of more than 40 clean cookstoves, and then to the West to see some reforestation and dry composting latrine projects.
Today, we will help inaugurate the new Renewable Energy Training & Demonstration Center in Tegucigalpa at 10am MST. Stay tuned for updates!