Since 2006, Utz Che’ has been a tireless advocate for over 40 indigenous Guatemalan communities committed to protecting and sustainably managing their forest resources. Utz Che’ acts as a loudspeaker for indigenous causes and concerns, which are otherwise easily dismissed from the public discourse and policy-making dialogues.
Trees, Water & People (TWP) was introduced to Utz Che’s leadership in 2010 and has worked with them to add fuel-efficient cookstove technology to their services to reduce pressure on the local forests from which fuelwood is harvested, as well as reduce indoor air pollution. After several years of prototyping designs with Utz Che’ communities and Guatemalan manufacturers, last year we embarked on the full-scale implementation of 500 clean cookstoves manufactured by two local enterprises — ECOCOMAL and Estufa Doña Dora. The project was so successful that this year we are raising funds to install 500 more in high-need communities.
The cookstove models selected for this project are partially pre-manufactured for consistency but are installed in a brick and mortar body constructed by trained community members. In 2016, this included 159 men and 371 women. Hands-on training in installation, use, and maintenance of the stoves increases local investment in the program through sweat equity and allows community members to become more intimate with the technology. Community engagement improves the local support network around the cookstoves.
Cooking is a very personal tradition in Central America, so new technologies must be able to cook the same foods, with the same fuels, in the same amount of time as the traditional designs if they are to be accepted by all members of society. Trees, Water & People’s years of expertise, coupled with a locally fine-tuned design, and the trust and rapport that Utz Che’ has with its member communities make for an extraordinarily effective, participatory, and meaningful partnership.
If you would like to help us build clean cookstoves in Guatemala, or would like to learn more about the importance of this project, click the button below.
I ask for your attention again as we get critical news from Hurricane Matthew’s wake in northwestern Haiti. In total, 55,000 people have been directly impacted by the storm in the two municipalities where TWP has worked since 2007. Our colleagues at AMURT have just returned from a trip to the area to assess needs, and are seeing immense challenges ahead. Roads have been washed out, irrigation systems have been destroyed, and almost all livelihood activities have ground to a halt. 70% of crops for this fall’s harvest are gone. 90% of the salt basins used to harvest sea salt have been flooded with mud. The limited sources for potable water in the area have been washed out.
Here is a first-hand account from our partners at AMURT.
“Just returned from the Northwest after a very hard trip – productive but very heartbreaking at the same time. The damage after the last inundations and heavy rains has been much more extensive than I thought. In fact when I went to the area after Matthew and compare what I saw then and what I witness now – it’s several degrees more severe and critical. I visited villages that have such substantial malnutrition, whose residents have lost all of their livelihoods and have nothing left to them. Several villages had cases of infant death due to malnutrition (only 3 weeks after the hurricane!), cholera returning, no drinking water, mud covering everything, productive soil covering salt basins, eroded roads…
This is a very extensive humanitarian crisis that is not talked about anywhere in the news. It’s as if this region is forgotten by all and is slipping into a spiral of vulnerability that will surely deepen week by week. I wanted to send you a quick email while I’m fresh back with very strong impressions and renewed urgency to respond.”
Due to their economic fragility and geographic isolation, families in this region have nowhere to turn to feed their families. They can migrate to one of Haiti’s overcrowded cities to live in the squalor of an informal urban slum, or they can rebuild their lives where they are. At TWP, we’re supporting the latter alternative – providing emergency relief via our partners, and helping the region rebuild and reinvest their way to a livable state.
Our resources for this effort are extremely limited, so we turn to you, our donors to help us with a special contribution to the effort. Again – 100% of the funds raised for this relief and reconstruction campaign will go to the communities in the Northwest Artibonite. No amount is too small. We will keep you posted as updates arise.
by Sebastian Africano, International Director of Trees, Water & People
For the last week I’ve been pondering the severity of Hurricane Matthew’s destruction in the Caribbean, a region in which I’ve spent a lot of time, and where I’ve worked with dozens of chronically vulnerable communities. While Matthew made landfall on the south coast of Haiti, which is what most are seeing in the news, I had not seen one mention of the conditions on Haiti’s northern peninsula, the region in which TWP has worked since 2007 with partners at AMURT and LOCAL.
Today I received the first news from the communities with which we’ve worked, and it’s not good (see below). As such, Trees, Water & People will be raising funds for the relief effort in the Northwest, and for continued stabilization of the hillsides with trees, shrubs, and grasses. 100% of funds raised will go to the recovery and reconstruction effort. Here is an email from our colleagues at AMURT, who just conducted a 3-day visit to the region:
Even before Hurricane Matthew, the northwest of Haiti was designated as an extreme vulnerability zone as a result of the 3-year drought – the farming and environment of the entire area has been devastated and has led to an increase of migration, the spread of cholera, and shrinking of livelihoods. The passing of Matthew along the NW of Haiti has devastated all coastal communities which rely on fishing, salt production, and subsistence farming. The photos show the extensive damage done to houses, but the damage extends inland – most of the irrigation canals have been destroyed, farms wiped out, livestock lost, salt basins submerged in mud, trees uprooted. Polluted water sources and very poor sanitation raise the danger of the expansion of the cholera epidemic which still plagues the region.
Hurricane Matthew has increased the vulnerability of this already impoverished and isolated corner of Haiti to a new level, which is exacerbated by the complete lack of basic services. The real crisis will deepen week by week as the sparse stocks of seeds and supplies begin running out. With the primary sources of livelihoods (in particular salt production and farming) severely impacted, those most vulnerable have lost the only source of meager income that has helped them meet their basic food needs. The situation is critical and requires an immediate response which is integrated, durable and targeting the most vulnerable populations. Assessment
280 houses completely destroyed, 640 houses inundated and damaged, 720 houses severely damaged, five schools severely damaged.
90% of salt basins severely impacted/destroyed.
Majority of farming land and irrigation severely impacted from the mountains to the coast.
Majority of road severely impacted, access to most inland areas very difficult.
First phase – emergency food, water, sanitation, medical and emergency kits, temporary shelter, child-friendly spaces, cash for work to clear debris and repair roads and salt basins.
Second phase – Livelihood creation, cash for work to protect watersheds and coastal areas, construction of permanent shelter, school reconstruction.
Program Focus of AMURT during the first 3-month period
Emergency food distribution (dry rations) and hot meal canteens for vulnerable groups (children under 5, elderly, pregnant women and handicapped) – a total of 2,500 beneficiaries in 5 coastal communities
Distribution of Non-Food Items (NFI) and emergency shelter kits until more extensive reconstruction can be planned
Water and sanitation – treated drinking water stations, latrines, sanitation education
Emergency Child-Friendly Spaces – daily hot meals and psycho-social and arts programs for children
Cash for Work program to repair roads, damaged areas, salt basins
Assistance to re-build the damaged fishing, salt production, and farming (tools, seeds, accompaniment)
Trees, Water & People has planted almost 500,000 trees in northern Haiti with our partners, and with any luck, they lessened the damage downhill of where they were planted. All funds raised by TWP will be used for the priorities listed above, and any remaining after the initial response will go toward rebuilding tree nurseries and replanting the contour channels and check dams that reduce erosion and mudslide risk. This is a desperately isolated region, which is why we worked here in the first place – let’s not let it be forgotten as the country recovers from yet another devastating natural disaster.
From the Trees, Water & People team: We wish you a healthy and happy holiday season! We are so thankful that you are part of our community. TWP’s programs protect the environment while improving livelihoods, a true win-win for people and the planet. This work would not be possible without the continued support of our friends and donors.
Thanks to a few very generous TWP supporters, we have a $25,000 matching grant available! When you make a donation today, it will be matched dollar for dollar.
We have big plans for the New Year and we hope you will consider a donation to our innovative, community-based programs that support conservation from the ground up. Don’t delay – every donation will be matched while funds last!
Happy #GivingTuesday! Today, the world is celebrating the millions of nonprofits and NGOs working tirelessly to create a better future for all. We hope you will take a moment to make a gift to one of our community-based conservation programs that improve people’s livelihoods while conserving the environment.
Trees, Water & People’s unique community-based development model is based on the philosophy that the best way to help those most in need is to involve them directly in the design and implementation of local environmental and economic development initiatives. This creates ownership, involvement, and financial sustainability well into the future. Our proven development model of training and execution, coupled with an enterprise approach, engages and inspires local residents to preserve their precious natural resources.
Celebrate #GivingTuesday by making a contribution today!
Trees, Water & People (TWP) will help build an earth-friendly home using compressed earth blocks for Paul Shields, his wife and three children. Paul is the son of Oglala Lakota political prisoner, Leonard Peltier, and is carrying forward dreams of a better future. “My dad will be happy I finally have my own home and can pass it on to his grandkids after I’m gone.” With your help, we will work with builders, volunteers, EARTHinBLOCK, and Lakota Solar Enterprises to construct Paul’s new home this summer.
What is the issue, problem, or challenge?
The harsh climate on Pine Ridge Reservation can vary from -40 to 120 degrees. Typical homes are poorly maintained & insulated, with extremely high energy bills. In keeping with his Lakota values of caring for the Earth for future generations, Paul “wants something more sustainable and better for my children and a room of their own for the first time. I want to provide them with a solid home that stays warm in the winter.”
How will this project solve this problem?
Compressed earth block (CEB) construction is a very old and proven approach. The blocks have thick thermal mass that provides an energy efficient structure that keeps cool in summer and warm in winter. Paul learned CEB construction last year while creating an office building for LSE, and now has first-hand experience in soil testing, pressing blocks, and applying natural finishes to the outside that protect it from the elements.
Potential Long Term Impact
Paul Shields will finally be a proud homeowner. The value of a well-insulated home for someone living on the Great Plains cannot be underestimated. Like many Native people on reservations, basic infrastructure like running water and electricity is not a given. Building Paul’s home from CEBs will serve as a model for other Native families to consider. TWP will promote this project as a demonstration of how a well-built, low-cost hone can be constructed for families in need.