Happy 100th International Women’s Day!!

Around the world, people are celebrating International Women’s Day! This is a wonderful opportunity for each of us to recognize the beautiful women in our lives and to tell them how their strength, love, and wisdom makes us better people.  According to the official website, “International Women’s Day (IWD) is a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. In some countries like China, Russia, Vietnam and Bulgaria, IWD is a national holiday. The first IWD event was run in 1911 so 2011 sees the Global Centenary.”

Standing proud next to a new fuel-efficient cookstove in Nicaragua.

Trees, Water & People has long had a woman- centered approach by nature, as working with cookstoves connects you directly to the women in every home and community. TWP has diligently worked to help over 46,000 households replace smoky, open-fire stoves with clean, fuel-efficient cookstoves. This change allows women to lead healthier lives, increase their savings and time to confidently care and provide for their children and families, provide a clean and safe home environment free of smoke where women feel proud to cook their daily meals, and contribute to making their communities vibrant places to live.

Doña Justa next to the fuel-efficient stove model she helped to design and create. Thank you Doña Justa for your leadership and contribution to the clean cookstove movement!

Doña Justa opened up her home in 1998 to TWP to help and guide us in designing a stove that Honduran women would love; 12 years later the Justa stove model with rocket combustion chamber is still leading the cookstove movement in Central America!

TWP embraces all the women whose lives touch us on a daily basis. We are proud to stand side by side with strong women leaders and to help more and more women, children, and men enjoy healthy and fulfilling lives.

Happy International Women’s Day!

Without the involvement of women our cookstove projects would be difficult, if not impossible, to sustain.

Notes From the Field: Clean Cookstoves in Uganda


TWP's Sebastian Africano sits with UVAN founder Aga Sekalala during a site visit in Bugonia district, Uganda.

Notes From the Field by Sebastian Africano, TWP’s Deputy International Director:

BEEP!  While shocked that my Ugandan cell phone had been able to pick up a text message at 630am, GMT+3 in the outskirts of Gayaza, Uganda, the message that followed was even more unexpected:  “A long dry season has been predicted. Expect shortages of food, water & pasture. Store food and water to avoid hunger.  – The Office of the Prime Minister.”

I reflected back to the focus group we had held the day before with 30 women – wives of smallholders on the western banks of the Nile – where dust whipped through our conversation for the entire hour, as if to shush their aspirations and keep us from meaningful conversation.

TWP's Sebastian Africano leads a focus group discussion about cookstoves in Bugonia district, Uganda.

But I know that their opinion is secondary – everything here depends on the rains… and the rains have not come.

The vanilla crop this year is down.  Coffee, plantains and cassava aren’t doing much better.  Many are worried.  But these families have an advocate – in fact several – which through long-term planning, foresight, and decisive action are trying to ease their concerns.  UVAN, a top Ugandan exporter of vanilla, and the company that has brought me here, pays a premium for their beans (almost 3 times more than the international price), and provides farmers and their families with extension services in health, livelihoods and environment – a service few companies of this nature would be willing to invest in.

Vanilla blossoms are hand-pollinated, and only open for one day, making them one of the most labor-intensive crops to produce in the world.

UVAN is supported in their work by almost all of their buyers – it is part of the culture that the founder, Aga Sekalala, has instilled in his business, and he has remained true to it.  One of his partners is Fort Collins, CO based Rodelle Vanilla (www.rodellevanilla.com), which happily pays the premium price for the beans Sekalala collects from his network of 9,000 farmers.  They also proudly support the extension services that UVAN provides, which teach farmers to thin their shade trees responsibly, to intercrop, to check-in regularly with UVAN’s mobile health services, and to seek support from UVAN’s savings and microloans programs, rather than harvesting prematurely to make a quick return in tough times.

So when Rodelle asked Trees, Water & People to advise them and UVAN as they launched a fuel-efficient cookstoves program for their farmers, we jumped at this unique opportunity.

Local leader of a Bugonia district community in a typical local kitchen.

One week into the project, we have traveled all over this amazing region meeting with women, with other NGOs acting locally, and with a range of stove manufacturers, slowly forming the foundation for what promises to be a far-reaching social and environmental contribution to this broad community of rural families, reducing the firewood they consume and cleaning the indoor air in their kitchens.

Rodelle Vanilla Partners Joe Basta and Dan Berlin, TWP Board Member Jeremy Foster, and two UVAN extensionists tour an intercropped vanilla plantation near Kayunga, Uganda.

Our goals are ambitious for the coming week, but we have had tremendous good fortune in building a strong network for the project, and UVAN’s extension team is one of the most impressive I’ve ever worked with.  So when I leave – one week from tomorrow – I know I will leave exhausted, but gratified to have had the opportunity to serve UVAN, Rodelle Vanilla and their network of farmers, and to have contributed to easing one concern that these families have as they wait for the rains to fall.

Read more about this new partnership in this recent article from the Coloradoan.

TWP Partners with Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Colorado on Innovative Cookstove Project

Trees, Water & People (TWP) has partnered with the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Colorado (RPCVCO) on a first-of-its-kind undertaking by an RPCV group that connects a U.S.-based development NGO with serving Peace Corps Volunteers in El Salvador to provide local communities with the necessary training to produce inexpensive, clean, and efficient cookstoves.

“I learned more about the work that Colorado-based nonprofit Trees, Water and People (TWP) does — and thought the fact that it was founded by an RPCV and that they provided blueprints for how to build cookstoves seemed like a better fit for Peace Corps Volunteers,” says Arianne Burger (Kazakhstan 99-01), President of RPCVCO, “I also thought that it would be an amazing way for our group to celebrate Peace Corps’ 50th anniversary.”

Peace Corps Volunteers will work with TWP’s El Salvador partner organization Arboles y Agua para El Pueblo (AAP), who will conduct 3 regional training workshops on how to build fuel-efficient cookstoves in communities where Volunteers are currently serving.

Peace Corps volunteers in El Salvador receive training on how to build the fuel-efficient Justa stove.

Each Volunteer will then return to their respective local communities to organize their own trainings.  The budget of  $9,000 will pay for 3 regional workshops a year, with 45 total volunteers trained, and 60 local community leaders trained (105 total).  This budget amount will cover the cost of travel and accommodations for the training, as well as materials and supplies for each person to build a stove during the training.

To raise funds for the pilot project, RPCVCO will be selling screen prints designed by Idaho Stew + Ink Lounge.  Click here to purchase a poster and help support this innovative partnership (See poster below).

To learn more about the Peace Corps Clean Cookstove Project click here.

Arboles y Agua para el Pueblo (AAP) Secures $30,000 Grant in El Salvador

The AAP team at a fuel-efficient cookstove workshop in El Salvador

Trees, Water & People is very proud to announce that our partner in El Salvador, Arboles y Agua para el Pueblo (AAP), has successfully secured a $30,000 project with the environmental government agency Fondo de la Iniciativa para las Américas de El Salvador (FIAES).  AAP will be working in a protected natural area of El Aguila in the conservation area of Apaneca – Ilamatepec.

The protected natural area of El Aguila in the conservation area of Apaneca – Ilamatepec.

The project will implement the following: 1) formulation of a natural resource conservation and solid waste management plan jointly with the Ministry of Environment and the beneficiary community Ojo de Agua; 2) construction of 20 fuel-efficient cookstoves in Ojo de Agua that borders the protected area and highly depends on its natural resources for subsistence; 3) installation of 16 PV systems- 15 home 5 watt systems and  one 10 watt for the community school as electricity does not reach the community; 4) creation of environmental education workshops and activities including tree planting, kitchen garden development, and hygiene and sanitation for the school children, community members, and park rangers; 5) training  of forest rangers; and 6) design and production of signage for interpretative hiking trails through the protected area.

FIAES started from a Bilateral Covenant between the Governments of El Salvador and the United States of America to pardon approximately $464 million in foreign debt, leaving $150 million to be repaid. The proposal was ratified in 1993, establishing that El Salvador would pay some $41.2 million of the interests on this debt during 20 years, generating an extinguishable fund to finance environmental and childhood survival projects under FIAES management.  Recognizing the work of the Fund, new funds were granted in 2001 to support projects in Tropical Forests for the amount of $14.4 million, to be invested during a period of 25 years.

For more information please visit http://www.fiaes.org.sv/eng/about.php

To learn about the environmental crisis in El Salvador read this article!

Travel With Purpose: TWP Service Learning and Cultural Worktour

Join Trees, Water & People for our 2011 worktour to visit and help with our projects in Honduras!

The worktour will give participants the opportunity to build clean cookstoves and plant trees to offset their carbon footprint for 1 year, as well as connect with local communities and visit the Mayan Ruins of Copan.

The trip runs August 6-17th, 2011 and costs $1,999 including roundtrip airfare from Denver, all accommodations, meals and in-country transportation. A heck of a deal!

For more information and to sign-up for the worktour, please contact Claudia Menendez, International Program Coordinator for Trees, Water & People, at 970.484.3678 or by email at Claudia@treeswaterpeople.org.

Update: 24 Cookstoves Built in 3 Days

A stove beneficiary in San Jose de Bocay stands next to her new fuel-efficient cookstove, built by Virginia Tech students, residents of Blacksburg, and TWP partner Proleña in early January 2011.

At the beginning of this month we did a post on the sister city relationship between Blacksburg, VA and San Jose de Bocay, Nicaragua (see post here).  Well, the trip was a great success!  Here is little update from trip leader and Blacksburg resident Jim Bier:

“We had a great week in San jose de Bocay.  The whole group was great, the arrangements worked well and we manged to build 24 stoves in 3 long days, and greatly strengthen our sister-city relationships in San Jose de Bocay.”

Thank you to the Virgina Tech students, residents of Blacksburg, and Proleña for all of your hard work!

Haiti One Year Later: Our Progress and Plans

The child-friendly space at SINEAS IDP camp in Port-au-Prince.

It has been one year since the devastating 7.0 earthquake rocked the country of Haiti, killing some 230,000 people and displacing another 1 million. Today, Trees, Water & People (TWP) is reflecting on the past year in Haiti and looking forward to the future.

In the weeks and months following the earthquake, and continuing through the end of 2010, TWP received a tremendous outpouring of support for our efforts in Haiti. Now, we would like to share with you how these generous donations have made a real and lasting impact, as well as our plans for 2011.

2010 Accomplishments in Haiti

With our partners Ananda Marga Universal Relief Team (AMURT), International Lifeline Fund (ILF) and StoveTec, we were able to get thousands of fuel-efficient Rocket cookstoves to internally displaced Haitians. The following summarizes our impact in the past year:

  • Donated 1,776 fuel-efficient cookstoves to Haitian families, directly affecting over 16,500 lives (with an average family size of 6 people). This cookstove distribution project, part of a UN project run by ILF, will greatly reduce fuel costs, deforestation, environmental impacts, and injuries due to open-fire cooking. In addition, with a great need for clean water, these cookstoves allow families to prepare food safely, and boil water to reduce deadly water borne diseases such as Cholera.

    Josanie LaFortune sits in front of her fuel-efficient cookstove at an IDP camp in Port-au-Prince.
  • Training programs funded by TWP soon after the quake led to the training of thousands of cookstove beneficiaries in IDP camps around Port au Prince.  Every training session included an overview of the stove parts, stove use and maintenance, and the environmental, economic and social benefits of a fuel-efficient cookstove. Trainees also participated in a cooking demonstration, where each woman cooked a meal on their new cookstove.
  • TWP helped develop a monitoring and evaluation program for the cookstoves distributed. These stoves have been very well received due to the fuel-savings and safer cooking conditions they offer. In fact, through the monitoring and evaluation program, we have found that beneficiaries save over 50% on their average daily fuel expenditures with their new cookstove.  As one woman commented:

“With my stove, I am able to purchase less charcoal and I help protect the environment….the stove program is helping us to rebuild our country so that Haiti can be more beautiful than before the earthquake.”

  • We funded our partner AMURT’s installation of the Integrated Healing and Wellness Center (IHEC) at the SINEAS Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp in Port-au-Prince. The IHEC consists of 11 pavilions and 22 classrooms, 10 composting toilets, 8 rainwater catchment systems, a reservoir, a composting site, a tree nursery, a permaculture demonstration site and organic garden. These child-friendly spaces gave 820 children the chance to attend preschool and after school programs, providing an important safe haven during a time of crisis. The vision for this center is that it can be replicated in other camps, with youth and women’s leadership as a main priority.
  • Working with the Haitian government, we participated in drafting the Haitian National Improved Stove Strategy with our partners from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Paradigm Project, and ILF. Working with the Haitian government’s Bureau of Mines and Energy (BME), we will continue to address the problems of deforestation caused mainly by charcoal production and fuel-wood consumption.
  • In 2010, TWP became a partner of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves (GACC).  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the GACC in New York City in September with a commitment to saving lives, improving livelihoods, empowering women, and combating climate change by creating a thriving global market for clean cookstoves. Since the launch, the Alliance has been working on activities that will help them achieve the goal of 100 million homes adopting clean and efficient cookstoves and fuels by 2020Our international staff will be participating in two working groups for the GACC: “Reaching Consumers” and “Monitoring and Evaluation.”

Moving Forward in Haiti: 2011 Plans

  • Working with AMURT, who runs multiple tree nurseries throughout Haiti, we will continue to address the critical deforestation issue in Haiti. According to the Haitian Bureau of Mines and Energy, 75% of the energy consumed in Haiti comes from biomass in the form of wood and charcoal; 80% of this amount is used for cooking meals at the household level. Halting the severe deforestation in the country is a critical task, as the current rate of reforestation is only 26% of the rate of forest removal.
  • In 2011, with our partner organizations, we will undertake extensive research and development to continue the process of designing a best-fit cookstove for Haiti that can be produced in country, by Haitians, using local materials with an end-product that is economically accessible to those most in need.

With your continued support, TWP and partners will also continue the distribution of fuel-efficient cookstoves, as well as the training, monitoring, and evaluation process that is critical to the success of this program.

Thank you so much for your support of and compassion for the Haitian people!

Join us for the “On the Road Series: Haiti One Year Later”

Please join us on January 20th at the Main Library in Fort Collins, CO for a presentation on our work in Haiti.  We would love to see you there!  FREE and open to the public.


TWP Helps Connect Sister Cities in Virginia and Nicaragua

In Bocay, 25 fuel-efficient cookstoves will be built between Jan. 2-14 as part of a service learning project.

From January 2-14, 2011, TWP board member Patrick Flynn will be leading a group of 17, including 11 Virginia Tech students and Blacksburg, Virginia residents, to San Jose de Bocay, Nicaragua on a service learning project.  The mission of the visit is to build fuel-efficient cookstoves for 25 low-income families.

Doña Enriqueta stands next to her open-fire stove in her home in Bocay. She will soon receive a fuel-efficient cookstove with the help of project participants.

In late October of 2010, Claudia Menendez, TWP’s International Program Coordinator, and Juan Jose, a Proleña stove technician, traveled to the mountain town of Bocay to assess the current cooking practices and fuelwood consumption trends of residents.  With the help of community leaders, Claudia and Juan were able to identify potential cookstove beneficiaries.  Based on their observations, Proleña, TWP’s partner organization in Nicaragua, has designed a stove suited to the cooking needs of the women in Bocay.  With the help of VT students and other tour participants, 25 women will have fuel-efficient cookstoves built in their homes, greatly reducing the indoor air pollution, fuel wood costs, and deforestation in Bocay.

During the 1980’s, the town of Bocay was in the middle of the Contra War zone, and was a refugee center for families fleeing the surrounding violence. Since 1989, the Sister City group has worked with town residents to build a school, buy computers, athletic uniforms and equipment.

San Jose de Bocay, Nicaragua

In total, the group has provided over $150,000 in funding to Bocay.

TWP is happy to help bring residents of Virginia together with residents of Bocay to complete sustainable development projects.  Safe travels!