Graduating TWP’s Solar Suitcase Training

By José Chalit, Marketing Manager

Earlier this summer, Trees, Water & People facilitated a 3-day long Suitcase workshop at the Pine Point School in Minnesota on the White Earth Reservation in partnership with Winona LaDuke’s non-profit Honor The Earth. In addition to educating 8 students, 2 science teachers and the school principal on the basis of solar energy, our National team also implemented activities from the National Indian Youth Leadership Project (NIYLP), aimed at boosting self-esteem and social-emotional development through hands-on learning.

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Student from Pine Point School holding a HELIO light

Upon completion of the solar suitcase workshop, students and teachers also received HELIO “lights”, a portable, solar-powered charger and flashlight created by Makers4Good, as a token of graduation and achievement of the solar curriculum.

Rebecca Geraldi, Giving Coordinator of Makers4Good recently told us:

When Makers4Good first learned about Trees, Water, & People, and for all they strive, we made a concerted effort to find a way to help support those efforts.

Our solar-powered light and power bank, HELIO, is a wonderful companion to the solar suitcases distributed by Trees, Water & People to U.S. Tribal Lands. HELIO provides personal and portable light and power that can be used by the same community members, on an individual basis. HELIO can charge phones and light the night, helping to keep people connected, productive, and safe.

This meaningful outcome strongly supports Makers4Good’s overriding social good mission, and we are delighted to partner with Trees, Water, & People. Together, we are brightening the lives of others — all with the power of the sun and the shared common aim of making a difference.” – Rebecca Geraldi, Giving Coordinator, Makers4Good

And, for a limited time, Rebecca’s team is offering you 20% off their HELIO light by entering the discount code “TWP19” at checkout here: https://helio.energy/buy-now

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The lights are on!

As we expand our solar suitcase trainings to other tribal communities aiming to reclaim control of their natural resources and improve their communities, we hope that graduates of the program can utilize HELIO in practical and educational scenarios.

Thank you, Makers4Good, for your commitment to social good and environmental sustainability – collaboration from organizations like yours is indispensable in the process of creating positive change!

 

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Graduates of 2019 Solar Suitcase Program at Pine Point School!

 

Early Bet, Ongoing Impact

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Family members of the Justa stoves original co-designer, Justa Nuñez

By Sebastian Africano, Executive Director

In the community development sector, it often takes years to know how well an idea delivers on its potential.  In 1998, Stuart Conway was on a mission to decrease firewood consumed for household cooking in Central America, to slow rates of deforestation. “Clean” cookstoves were a relatively blunt tool at the time – there were few, simple designs, minimal geographic coverage, and a nascent understanding of what made an “improved” cookstove better than tried and true traditional options.

Stuart made a bet via his new organization, Trees, Water & People (TWP), that local women, working with engineers that understood participatory design, could come up with something better than what was available.  After Hurricane Mitch in late 1998, the work began, and within the year, TWP, Aprovecho Research Center, and the community Aldea de Suyapa had debuted the Justa Stove, named after Justa Nuñez – the woman who most contributed to its design.

Twenty years later, the Justa Stove remains the flagship improved cookstove in Central America, and dozens of additional designs have sprung from its original iteration.  In March, I gave a talk on the history of the Justa Stove to 100 members of the Clean Stove Network of Latin America and the Caribbean, during their 3rd International Forum.  The positive response from organizations who had adopted the stove, others that had studied the stove, and yet others who had modified it to serve different markets, was validating, and humbling.

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Presenting at the 3rd International Forum for Clean Stove Network of Latin America and the Caribbean.

The Justa Stove is designed by and for the user, which is one secret to its success.  Another is that it’s built by local masons using locally manufactured materials, and generates income for anyone willing to learn how to build it.  Most importantly, it’s easy to use; it’s aesthetically familiar and cooks the food people want to cook with the same speed, firewood, and pots that cooks are used to.  The fact that it uses 50% less wood and reduces smoke exposure in the household by 80% is just icing on the cake.

Central America is in crisis.  It sorely needs employment, innovation, investment, and participatory development.  The only way we can proactively reduce migration out of Central America is to invest in building resilient economies there – especially in rural areas.  TWP can help in real and tangible ways, but given the urgency, we need to redouble our efforts, and our reach.

There is currently a push to create hundreds of jobs in the cookstove sector through in-depth training of masons in theory, design, installation, maintenance, and refurbishment of the Justa Stove.  This is a dream situation for TWP, and with your generous support, we can put Central Americans back to work making local products that improve the environment and quality of life for tens of thousands of people per year. One stove costs between $75 – $100 to install, and it costs roughly $300 to fully train, equip, and certify new builders.

With over 250,000 Justa-type stoves installed to-date, and numerous studies proving its acceptance and efficacy, it’s now more than clear that Stuart Conway’s early bet on cookstoves has borne fruit.  The opportunity to build on this success is huge, and the time is now. If you’d like to support this effort, please reach out directly to TWP, or donate using the link below.

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Thank you for reading – please spread the word about TWP across your networks!

Notes from the Field: Not Your Typical Summer Internship

by Kelly Cannon, International Program Intern

Gathering feedback from the community helps us implement successful programs.
Gathering feedback from the community helps us implement successful programs.

So I thought I would attempt to share a little glimpse into my life-changing summer experience. I’ll start with a bit of background. My name is Kelly Cannon. I’m a Global Studies and Spanish major with a Business minor currently studying at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. I landed a position as the International Programs Intern with the non-profit organization Trees, Water & People (TWP) this summer. I was enthused. The internship seemed to combine all of my passions – community development, travel, Latin America, Spanish, people, and adventure. I could not wait for the incredible learning opportunity ahead.

So just like that I found myself spending six weeks exploring every corner of Honduras and Guatemala generating market data for a clean energy distribution enterprise. I conducted household interviews, held focus groups, taught communities about solar energy, while also exploring the competitive landscape, supply chain opportunities and developing a marketing plan for solar energy distribution in energy-poor regions of Guatemala.

maizI visited dozens of communities throughout these regions, but I want to share about my experience in one place in particular. La Bendición, Guatemala is surrounded by breathtaking views of lush, green landscape and three volcanoes. The best part about staying in La Bendición was just living life with the people there. I stayed with a host family for four days. I spent a large amount of time with my host mom and her daughter, Silsy. We woke up at 6:00am and brought a bucket of corn to the molino. We waited in line with all the other women, poured the corn through some complicated machinery, and watched it transform into flour used to make tortillas. I’m pretty sure I became a professional tortilla-maker by the time I left the community.

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Another morning my mom and Silsy took me on a long walk to a cornfield where their cows graze. We visited the animals and then picked a big bundle of leaves off the corn. When we returned home, they taught me how to fold the leaves around flour to make tamales. Later that afternoon, they called me out to the backyard for another lesson. They snatched up one of the chickens running around the yard and held it over the pila (the outdoor sink). My mom and Silsy broke its’ neck right in front of me, poured out the guts and blood, and plucked the feathers off the body before putting it in a bucket of hot water. One hour later we were all sitting around the table eating the tamales and the chicken. I treasure my time in La Bendición experiencing a new way of life with my host mom and Silsy. I learned so much about their daily tasks while sharing in wonderful conversation. I fell in love with moments during my time there that I will always cherish.

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The children look on curiously as we conduct interviews with their parents.

In addition to living life with the people in La Bendición, I was of course also working on the solar energy project for TWP. I held a meeting with the women in La Bendición the day I arrived to teach them about the solar energy products that TWP distributes and let them know I would be visiting households and conducting interviews. I wanted to ask families about how they illuminated their houses at night with no access to electricity, calculate their current energy expenditures, demonstrate the products, and gauge their interest in this alternate form of clean energy. The women expressed gratitude and excitement at the meeting and many volunteered to be interviewed first. Over the next few days Silsy and I talked to seventeen different families in La Bendición. The community, as a whole, showed great interest in the solar energy products. The people told me about the extreme need for this project in their community and the obstacles they face on a daily basis due to the absence of light. Many families wanted to purchase the lights from me on the spot. Sadly, I had to explain I was not selling the products just doing a preliminary investigation in order to bring the products to the community in the future.

The experience in La Bendición was eye-opening and encouraging. I felt at home there. The interviews allowed me to learn a lot about the current energy situation in this community and in Guatemala as a whole. The people were supportive and welcoming, especially once they learned my purpose for visiting. When I left on a chicken bus that Friday morning to head to a new community, some of the women came out, kissed me on the cheek, and wished me luck on the rest of my trip. I was sad to leave but also even more excited and passionate about bringing solar energy to families in hard-to-reach communities.

Photo of the Week: Illuminating homes and opportunity in Honduras

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About this photo

Throughout Honduras, 2.5 million people lack access to reliable sources of electricity. Families are dependent on expensive and unhealthy kerosene lamps and candles to light their homes at night.

We are working to change this reality with solar lights that provide clean, renewable energy from the sun. These innovative products reduce daily fuel expenses and indoor air pollution associated with the continuous use of kerosene for home lighting.  By working with small businesses, women’s co-operatives, and local entrepreneurs, our solar products are reaching hundreds of isolated agricultural communities and therefore provide lighting for many off-grid families at a low-cost.

To learn more about our solar lighting program please visit our website.

(photo by Darren Mahuron 2013)

Photo of the Week: (Solar) Power to the People!

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About this photo

A woman from the Lenca Women’s Ceramics Cooperative in rural La Paz, Honduras shows off her solar powered LED light from our Cleantech Program.

This group of talented women artisans is responsible for some of the most remarkable ceramic work in Honduras, and have replaced candlelight and smoky ‘Ocote’ with solar lights, helping them work during the dark evening hours so they can get products to craft markets throughout Honduras. The co-op is also an authorized distributor of our lights, helping other community members illuminate their homes with solar.

Learn more about our efforts to bring solar lighting to Central America at our website!

TWP’s Cleantech Project Wins National Energy Globe Award

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We are excited to announce that we have been selected for the Energy Globe National Award for our clean energy project in Honduras. One of today’s most prestigious environmental awards, it is presented annually to projects focusing on energy efficiency, renewable energy, and resource conservation.

Our project, Clean Energy for Central America: Providing Solar Technology to Last Mile Communities”, is a partnership with Honduran non-governmental organization Asociación Hondureña para el Desarrollo (AHDESA), to create a market in Honduras for life-changing cleantech products that provide solar lighting to rural families without access to electricity. These products save families money by reducing fossil fuel consumption, while decreasing deadly indoor air pollution and lowering hazardous greenhouse gas emissions.

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In Honduras alone, 2.3 million people still live off-grid, with no access to electricity. Families rely on kerosene lamps and candles that are expensive and produce high levels of indoor air pollution. Our cleantech products deliver immediate, triple bottom line returns to the poorest communities in the Western Hemisphere. Reducing dependency on kerosene and switching over to solar lighting systems brings staggering social, environmental, and economic returns.

“We envision a world where every person, down to the last mile or ‘base of the pyramid,’ has access to clean energy in an affordable manner.” said Sebastian Africano, TWP’s International Director.

This project will now move on to a second round of judging. It is eligible for the International Energy Globe Award, to be announced later this month.

To learn more please visit the Energy Globe Award’s website!

The AHDESA team in Honduras with the National Energy Globe Award for solar lighting project.
The AHDESA team stands proud with Sebastian Africano (bottom right) after winning the National Energy Globe Award for their work bringing solar lighting to rural families.

Luciérnaga Brings Clean Energy to Thousands

by Sebastian Africano, International Director

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International Director Sebastian Africano discusses the benefits of solar
lighting with a member of the Lenca Women’s Ceramics Cooperative in rural
La Paz, Honduras.

Eighteen months ago, Trees, Water & People (TWP) launched a program to sell solar photovoltaic lighting systems in Honduras under a grant provided by the U.S. Department of State’s Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas. This program has been so successful that we will be expanding to other Central American countries under the name Luciérnaga (“firefly” in Spanish). By utilizing our 15 year old partnerships in the region, we can reach people that have no access to electricity, helping them modernize, bring jobs to the country’s rural areas, and also importantly, care for their natural world.

Our focus is on two types of solar lighting and cell phone charging systems – a strong, waterproof, portable LED lantern, and a wall-mounted, lighting system with four LED bulbs that can be placed throughout the house. Both products are inexpensive, but still provide high-quality lighting that can replace the dirty kerosene lamps and candles that light every room in the home.

barefoot power solar lights_HondurasRural families in the region often group together into small agricultural cooperatives – organizations made up of dozens to thousands of small farmers that combine their coffee, cacao, grain, timber, sugarcane, and other crops before they take it to the market. Cooperative members also use the organization as a bank – they take credit from the co-op before planting season, and pay it back when they sell their produce.

In places without banking services, cooperatives are a lifeline for rural families,
and a natural fit as a retailer for our solar lighting products. Since Trees, Water & People sells the lights and chargers to the cooperatives on consignment, there is little risk for the members and products can be purchased at a low-cost, on a payment plan. This distribution model allows us to offer quality lighting and cell phone charging products to unlit homes at affordable prices, improving the health and environment of these communities for many years to come.

The Luciérnaga project is another great example of how TWP is illuminating
opportunity and homes in Central America. However, we couldn’t do this without our donors, as their support has truly brought positive change to the lives of the people in these communities.

To learn more please visit our website or support this project by making a donation to help bring solar lights to families in Honduras.