Community Voices: Guadalupe Padilla

Sra Guadalupe Padilla Auxiliar de Viverista

In every country where we plant trees, we employ local citizens to manage our tree nurseries and planting efforts. These dedicated individuals plant each seed by hand, care for the seedlings for months while they are maturing in our nurseries, and then help to oversee the planting of those trees.

Recently, our long-time partner Armando Hernandez, Director of Arboles y Agua para el Pueblo (AAP) in El Salvador, shared a story with us about his newest employee, a single mother raising two sons and a daughter.

Guadalupe Padilla was hired to help relocate the AAP nursery and care for the tens of thousands of trees grown at this site. She finds much pride in her work and the new job allows her to support her children while contributing to environmental conservation efforts in El Salvador.

Guadalupe believes that “We must conserve the environment for our children!” And why shouldn’t environmental protection also create jobs for people like Guadalupe, who live in rural areas where is employment is needed most?

Support one of our community-based conservation projects today!

Community Voices: Hilda Garcia

For over 10 years, Doña Hilda Garcia has been an integral part of our conservation efforts in El Salvador. Here, she shares her story about how she became involved with our work. Thank you, Hilda, for your dedication to the environment and people of El Salvador!

Doña Hilda in our tree nursery in El Porvenir, El Salvador.
Doña Hilda in one of our tree nurseries in El Porvenir, El Salvador.

I used to suffer from the smoke of an open cooking fire. A friend told me about TWP’s clean cookstove program, and I jumped at the chance to participate, even though my husband was out of town so I didn’t know if he would approve. I built my stove with Larry Winiarski [inventor of the Rocket stove] and we made tortillas on it the same day! When my husband returned from his trip and saw the Justa stove, I told him all about it and was relieved that he supported my decision.

Without all the smoke, my eyes don’t water and my family can eat comfortably indoors. My older children always used to suffer from respiratory infections, but my youngest girl grew up very healthy, breathing clean air.

In 2003, TWP asked for my help creating a play about the Justa stoves. The play was so successful that they proposed that I work as a stove promoter. I am happy being a stove promoter. I leave the house more, I have new friends, and I’ve seen new places, even Nicaragua for an international stove conference. My husband now works as a stove builder, so helping people with Justa stoves is a family affair for us.

Hilda visits with a clean coostove user in El Salvador.
Hilda (left) visits with a clean coostove user in El Salvador.

When I visit people to follow up after they have built their cookstoves, they say it’s like a gift from God. The Justa stove has improved my life and the lives of many others.

Community Voices: Juana Mancia Alvarado

clean cookstove El Salvador

Juana Mancia Alvarado lives in the town of Rio Abajo, El Salvador and makes her living by selling homemade tortillas. Over the years, her health has been negatively impacted from breathing the toxic smoke and fumes emitted from her traditional cookstove. And, Juana is not alone. More than 2 million people in El Salvador, and 3 billion people worldwide, are impacted by indoor air pollution, the majority of which are women and children.

When families do not have access to electricity, they are forced to cook their meals with wood. This causes many human health problems, as well as deforestation throughout the country.

Trees, Water & People (TWP) and our partners address this problem by building clean cookstoves for families and small business owners like Juana. Each of our cookstoves decrease a families’ need for firewood by 50-70%, as compared to standard open fire cooking. When vented to the outside of the home, these improved cookstoves also decrease indoor air pollution, which is responsible for the death of 4.3 million people globally every year (World Health Organization, 2014).

Our partners at Arboles y Agua para el Pueblo built a Justa clean cookstove inside Juana’s kitchen, which now removes nearly all that toxic smoke from the home. She says “now, I never get sick!” In addition, she has greatly reduced her fuelwood expenses, allowing her to save more of her hard earned money.

To learn more about our Clean Cookstove Program and to make a contribution please visit our website.

Update: El Salvador Tree Nursery Successfully Relocated

new tree nursery_El Porvenir El Salvador
AAP staff water the new nursery after relocating to new land.

 

Since 2001, we have worked with Arboles y Agua para el Pueblo (AAP) to plant a wide variety of trees in El Salvador. AAP is an ideal organization to work with because they have such a dedicated and hard working staff with close ties to the local communities. Since our partnership began, we have planted nearly 600,000 trees, helping to address environmental degradation caused by deforestation in this small Central American country.

Resiembra de plantulas de Limón en nuevo Vivero Marzo 2014Earlier this year AAP received some bad news. They would have to vacate the land where their tree nursery had been located since 2007 because it was being divided and sold. Armando Hernandez Juarez, the Director of AAP, explained, “We tried to negotiatebut we were told to evict the property immediately as the demolition would begin and the nursery was in the way.”  Moving the nursery would be a huge challenge because AAP had already planted 25,000 seeds, not to mention that they would need to take down, transport, and then rebuild the infrastructure!

Thanks to the generosity of a local family with land available, the AAP team was able to relocate the tree nursery, including the 25,000 bags of soil. The nursery staff worked really hard to make this move happen so we can continue to grow precious trees for reforestation efforts throughout the country. Armando said, “We recognize the work done by our staff to dismantle the nursery in El Carmen and reestablish the new nursery. These people worked hard and without sparing any additional time.”

We are so grateful to our dedicated partners at AAP who have worked tirelessly to keep our nursery in operation. We look forward to seeing this tree nursery bloom with life in the coming months. Great work team!

Doña Tania Alarcón auxiliar de viverista llenando con sustrato las bolsas en el nuevo Vivero Marzo 2014
Tania Alarcón plants seeds at the new tree nursery location.

Partnership with Peace Corps and ECPA Increases Access to Clean Energy in El Salvador

Peace Corps cookstove project El Salvador
Peace Corps Volunteer, Ismaldi Cueto, helped build clean cookstoves in the community of Las Pillas, El Salvador with training from TWP.

Since 2012, we have been working with the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas (ECPA) in Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala as part of their “Improving Access to Clean Energy” initiative.

As implementing partners for the ECPA, we are working to:

  • Increase low carbon economic growth and development
  • Accelerate the uptake and deployment of renewable, energy-efficient technologies, including solar energy products such as solar lighting and phone chargers
  • Advance countries’ abilities to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation
  • Promote regional cooperation and integration

Ambitious? Yes! But we have had great success with this program, and a huge part of that success is due to strong partnerships. Peace Corps has been one of these strong partners.

In El Salvador, our local partners have worked to train Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) to build clean cookstoves. PCVs, in turn, teach local people in their communities about the benefits of our cookstoves and help them build them in their homes. This training model empowers local people with the knowledge to build and maintain cookstoves long after the PCV has left the community. Knowledge is passed along, deforestation is reduced, and homes are healthier as more and more families switch from traditional open fire stoves to clean cookstoves.

To date, this innovative partnership has built nearly 500 clean cookstoves with ECPA funds and the help of dedicated PCVs.

building clean cookstoves El Salvador
Don Jorge Garcia trains community resident Osmi Rameriz in cookstove construction in the town of Caserio Las Minas.

The Big Move: Relocating 25,000 seedlings in El Salvador

el salvador tree nursery

The small town of El Porvenir has been home to our Salvadoran tree nursery for many years, producing nearly 600,000 trees for reforestation efforts in El Salvador. Our dedicated local team, Arboles y Agua para el Pueblo (AAP), takes great pride in growing every tree from seed, caring for each seedling until it is ready to be planted on a local farm, protected area, or within local communities. These trees are, of course, important for environmental protection efforts. But beyond that, they also represent improved livelihoods, jobs, and nutrition for rural communities.

tree nursery el salvador
25,000 seeds planted and ready to be moved

For the past several years, we have been grateful to a local coffee producer for allowing us to use his land for our nursery operations. Unfortunately, we were recently notified that we could no longer use the land, as the coffee company had gone out of business. So, after spending many long days planting 25,000 tree seedlings and setting up the infrastructure for the season, the staff at AAP had to move the entire nursery to a new location in El Porvenir. Frustrating? Yes! But, tree planting must go on and nothing is going to get in the way of those efforts.

The tree nursery has been successfully relocated, but this is only a temporary solution. In the coming months, we will be working with AAP to search for land that we can buy, securing a location for our tree nursery for many years to come. Stay tuned for updates on our land search in El Salvador!

new tree nursery
Working the land at the new nursery location

Community Voices: Carlos Humberto Gonzalez

by Megan Maiolo-Heath, Marketing Manager

Carlos Humberto Gonzalez

Working with local farmers throughout Central America is an important part of grassroots natural resource conservation programs. These dedicated and hardworking individuals know the local land, watersheds, biodiversity, and soils better than anyone and they are dependent on a healthy environment for their livelihoods.

Carlos Humberto Gonzalez is one of these farmers that left a lasting impression on me and my colleagues. Carlos was born and raised on his family’s small farm, located on a hill overlooking the rural town of El Porvenir, El Salvador. Now that his mother and father have passed on, the responsibilities of running the farm are all his. He grows a variety of crops, including tomatoes, eggplant, citrus trees, corn, and coffee and depends on the land for his survival.

drip irrigationAs we toured his property, he showed us how he had created an innovative drip irrigation system for his crops using plastic soda bottles and gravity. This system saves precious water, which at the time was hard to come by due to severe drought conditions.

Through our partnership with Arboles y Agua para El Pueblo, we were able to add a touch of chocolate or cacao (Theobroma cacao) to his plot of coffee, helping to improve the soil quality and increase the biodiversity of his land. These 50 trees will also produce a high-quality product that he can sell at the local market, helping to support his family and business.

“My father would be proud of what I have accomplished with our farm and my family will be happy that I can sell more products at market. I am very happy to have these new trees.”

As we looked out over the beautiful countryside, and Carlos pointed out various landmarks in the distance, I could sense how dedicated he was to his land and his country. To support reforestation efforts in El Salvador is an honor and we look forward to supporting many more farmers in the future.

To learn more about our work in El Salvador please visit our wesbite.

Notes from the Field: Healthier Communities Through Composting Latrines

by Sebastian Africano, International Director

composting pit latrine base
The base of a new composting latrine and of a healthier community!

Five families – a total of 20 individuals – received a new dry composting latrine in El Porvenir, El Salvador, thanks to a generous grant of $3,100 from Catapult supporters.

Eliminating common pit latrines means cleaner groundwater and a more hygienic conditions in the home, leading to a lower disease burden in these communities. The latrines were built in collaboration with the beneficiaries, who provided rock for the foundation, cement mortar, and sweat equity during the construction of the latrine.

Furthermore, the local municipality donated the pre-fabricated concrete slab floor and the molded concrete toilet seat, while TWP provided the cement blocks, the wooden frame for the structure of the bathroom, the metal sheet for the walls and roof, and the vent pipes. Funds were also used to hire skilled laborer, to supervise the construction, and to train families in use and maintenance of the latrine.

Risks and challenges

Having managed international development projects for over 15 years in Central America and the Caribbean, Trees, Water & People is no stranger to risk and challenges in our work. However, our unique methodology of requiring a community cost-share and sweat equity from beneficiaries increases investment and involvement from all stakeholders, and thus increases our odds of implementing projects with lasting benefits.

building latrine_Colonia Izaguirre Tegucigalpa
Construction of new composting latrines

The biggest risk in this case, mitigated by experience and close supervision by Trees, Water, and People implementors, is building the structure in compliance with El Salvador’s Health Ministry standards for composting latrines.

Due to the community’s organization and cooperation, the project was completed before deadline, all families are 100% switched over to their new latrine, and the old pit latrines have been filled for the last time.

Up Close

new latrine composting pit latrine
A new composting pit latrine

I had a chance to visit a prior installation of 10 dry composting latrines in this region of El Salvador, and the testimonies and tangible signs of change were palpable.

This region is tropical and volcanic, with regular seismic activity, episodes of torrential rains and a high water table. During big rain events, the ground gets completely saturated, and all pit latrines are flooded, leaching excrement and pathogens onto open land, into agricultural fields, and into drinking water supplies.

The structures that conceal the conventional latrines are typically a few torn bedsheets, shower curtains or cardboard, and people are often ashamed to show them to you. In contrast, all latrines I saw were kept very tidy and odor free, and people were extremely proud to show them off. From looking at the images attached to this report, you can see why this is such an important change to people’s lives.

Next steps

The five latrines that we set out to build with Catapult funds have been completed and are in full use. We are continuing to coordinate with the municipality about additional households we could serve with the same methodology, and are actively looking for donors to support this important work.

Photo of the Week: Improved Sanitation for Families in El Salvador

dry composting latrines El Salvador

About this photo

Poorly built pit latrines can harbor diseases such as Hepatitis A, Protozoal Amoebiasis, and Ecoli as well as contaminate the environment over time. Trees, Water & People began installing dry composting latrines in El Salvador to improve quality of life and the environment by providing more sanitary conditions and controlling human waste that otherwise leaches into the soils and surrounding water supplies. 

Working with our local partner, Arboles y Agua para El Pueblo, and thanks to donors on Catapult.org, we recently installed five composting latrines for families in El Porvenir, El Salvador. A total of 19 people, such as Vilma Antonia Rivera Montano (pictured above), are now benefiting from cleaner sanitation solutions and healthier watersheds.

Thank you to everyone who supported this important project on Catapult!

Learn more about how our latrines work >>