We are working with our long-time NGO partner, Proleña, in Nicaragua, to establish the National Center for Biomass Energy & Climate Change near La Paz Centro, Nicaragua.
The Center will be an educational resource where communities can learn about managing forests, renewable energy, cleantech, and clean cookstoves. In addition to the core training, we will develop the Center as a global facility, where people from around the world will be empowered with the skills that will help them adapt to climate change in their region.
Features of the National Center for Biomass Energy & Climate Change:
Please feel free to download and share our newest edition of “Forests Forever”, Trees, Water & People’s bi-annual newsletter. This edition has lots of great updates on our programs and inspiring stories from the field. We hope you enjoy! To learn more about TWP please visit www.treeswaterpeople.org.
It gives us great pleasure to welcome the newest member of the Trees, Water & People (TWP) family, Jean Marie Gabriel. Jean is our new Haiti Program Manager, and will be living in Port-au-Prince representing TWP locally, and moving our projects forward.
Jean was born and raised in Port-au-Prince, and held a diverse array of occupations before moving to the United States to pursue University in 2000. Most interesting to us was his work in the banking sector, working as a Loan Officer for Fond d’Assistance aux Entrepreneurs Moyens (Fund for the Assistance of Medium Entrepreneurs – FAEM) and as a Service Agent for one of Haiti’s biggest banks, Sogebank.
After receiving his undergraduate degree in Business Administration from Florida Atlantic University and while completing a Master of Public Administration degree from Marist College in New York, Jean helped to found the Knowledge is Wealth Learning Center, an alternative education service for low income residents in Palm Beach County, Florida.
Jean is a proven leader and we are thrilled to have him managing our clean cookstove and reforestation efforts in Haiti. Currently, he is in the process of setting up our in-country office, and setting TWP up for success in the coming years. Please join us in welcoming Jean to the team by supporting TWP in 2012!
The International Program made a BIG impact last year though their clean cookstove and reforestation projects, empowering communities to sustainably manage their precious natural resources. These community-led projects improve human, environmental, and economic health! Thanks to all of our partners who make these projects a success.
The kitchen smelled of molasses and smoke, mixed with the thick red dust from ceramic bricks being cut and shaped. In El Salvador, it is tradition to use molasses to mix cement. They say it’s stickier and doesn’t crack as much as cement mixed with water. For a clean cookstove, this is exactly what we want.
Today, we are in the small farming town of El Porvenir, about an hour and fifteen minutes from the busy and overcrowded capital city of San Salvador. The Arboles y Agua para El Pueblo (AAP) team is here with us, watching Melvin Sandoval, one of AAP’s stove tecnicos, build a new Justa clean cookstove in the home of Doña Mercedes. This year alone, the busy AAP team, our NGO partner on the ground in El Salvador, has built over 500 clean cookstoves. In total, the team has built close to 4,000 of these life-changing stoves in El Salvador. Doña Ilda, AAP’s stove promoter, says she currently has a waiting list of over 200 more families who have requested the stoves. The demand is very high and we are doing everything we can to meet this demand.
Since the Salvadoran government cut liquid propane gas (LPG) subsidies, the price of this popular fuel went from $5 to $15 in a matter of days, causing huge financial burdens for the majority of the population dependent on these subsidies. This has led to a huge spike in the use of fuelwood for cooking, making our clean cookstoves very appealing to families who have returned to cooking with traditional, open fire stoves.
When we walk into Mercedes’ kitchen, a very small building connected to the back of the house, her old stove stands right in front of us, a sad excuse for a cooking “appliance.” Mercedes has been using this converted metal barrel to cook for years, essentially just an elevated and completely open fire, the back of which has melted away from the intense heat. The walls and ceiling of the kitchen show the consequences of this type of cooking as well, blackened from smoke and soot bellowing up from daily fires. I immediately begin to imagine what it must be like to cook in here everyday. Eyes burning, coughing, clothes smelling of a campfire, constantly buying or cutting firewood, child strapped to your back, inhaling the smoke and soot. How can a woman and her children bear this for so long?
No person should have to be subjected to such conditions, yet 3 billion people, nearly half the world’s population, still cook over an open fire every single day. This lack of access to basic energy, such as electricity or gas, is a major inequality that anyone who has been to a developing country has seen and will never forget. The people suffering most from this energy inequality are the women and children, who spend most of their days cooking for the family. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that nearly 2 million people (again, mostly women and children) die each year from the effects of indoor air pollution (IAP). WHO also estimates that harmful cookstove smoke is one of the top five threats to public health in poor, developing countries.
Mercedes and her children are well aware of the dangers of open fire cooking, which is why they are thrilled to see us when we show up to start construction of the new cookstove. Most of the AAP team joins us today to both help with building as well as catch up with Sebastian and Claudia, who run TWP’s International Program, and our down in Central America to visit partners and projects. As we all talk, Melvin gets started with the bricks and mortar. The molasses cement is ready to go, and the bricks are now being placed. As the afternoon moves along, we work together to mix more cement, cut out ceramic tiles that will become the combustion chamber, and take photos and video of the progress being made. Mercedes and her children keep a close eye on the project as well, eager to use their new and improved stove.
When you see this process first-hand, you begin to realize how important planning, logistics, and teamwork are to a successful cookstove program. This starts with having a solid team in the field. AAP is this team. Led by their director Armando Hernandez, the group is hardworking and dedicated to helping both communities and the environment thrive. They spend every day working with families who are struggling to get by and looking for ways to better their lives. Clean cookstoves provide one answer to these families.
As the day comes to an end, and it is time to let the cement dry, the new cookstove becomes another example of how we are educating and empowering people to become stewards of their environment. Better cooking options are available; stoves that don’t use exorbitant amounts of wood while polluting homes and the environment can be built right now. Giving communities access to this technology is the first step on the path out of energy poverty.
Every year Jam Cruise passengers and Positive Legacy donate funds to Trees, Water & People‘s projects to offset the miles they’ve traveled to get to the cruise, and the emissions from the cruise itself. Proceeds from this program go to funding reforestation work and cookstoves in Central America and Haiti. This year 100% of the funds will go to starting a tree nursery with Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods at their compost site in Northern Haiti.
We crammed two days into one. Mainly, this was the case because everything takes longer here. The rest of the cookstove supplies we needed were in different hardware stores, the traffic is bad, the roads are steep and bumpy up to the community where we would be working. The day was long but it was so good.
I awoke in the Texas Hotel to a loud pounding on my door, “Megs, are you up?!” asked Claudia. Got ready, packed my bag, and out the door to Saritas for breakfast, a Denny’s-like restaurant chain that is too American for its own good. The industrial town of Escuintla had been awake for a while. The main road to Gutemala City runs right through this grungy city and it is a major trucking route down to the southern ports and border towns. On top of this traffic, there is everyone else trying to get somewhere. Motorcycles, cars, bikes, trucks, people, even the mutts have somewhere to go….Gutemala is wide awake this morning.
The disorder is so far removed from the Pleasantville feeling of Fort Collins, Colorado, home to Trees, Water & People’s headquarters, home to my cubicle. Traffic laws are a suggestion in Gutemala and, for your safety, I would suggest not following them. Sebastian assertively zips through traffic up the highway to Palin, another truck stop town but smaller then Escuintla. There, we grab Imerio Lobo, our new partner on the ground who works for Ut’z Che‘, and we start the day by finishing the supply hunt.
TWP’s clean cookstoves are designed to be built using all local materials, most of which are made by local people. The cement, the clay, the bricks, the rebar, the wire, the ceramic tiles are all sourced locally, stimulating an economy that can use any stimulation it can get.
First stop, cement factory. We load our little rental truck up to the breaking point and pray its lawnmower engine will make it up the notoriously bad road to the community of La Bendición. 100 cement bricks, 3 bags of cement, 100 tiles, check.
Next, back down to Escuintla for a ceramic cutter that will be an important tool for shaping the tiles used to construct the combustion chambers. Weave through tight streets of this bustling town, get stuck in the middle of a market, big sigh as we make it out, and we find what we need. Okay, “listo!”
Next stop, the small indigenous community of La Bendición (the blessing), where we will build clean coostoves, passing on important skills and knowledge to Imerio and the members of this community so they can continue providing this life-saving technology to all the families living here. More than building stoves though, this is an important opportunity to connect with the people, talk to them about their lives, how they cook, what we can provide to them so they may live a better life.
The drive up to the community is violently bumpy and so steep our full truck often stalls or stops completely. We pass by farms, grazing cattle, dense forest, small homes, food stalls, and over small rivers and streams. Finally, we make it up to La Bendición. We are immediately welcomed and taken up to the community center, where we will spend the night.
The people of La Bendición are actually not from this area. We should be visiting them in the highlands of Guatemala, far away from the tropical climate of southern Guatemala, where we are now. In a perfect world you would also never find these 40 families living together. They are all of different indigenous ethnicities. In fact, if you listen close you can hear 3 different languages being spoken other then Spanish. What brings these people together, living and surviving in this very remote area of the country, is the heartache and suffering of civil war. After years of unrest and oppression of the indigenous populations, after land was stolen, then given back, then stolen again, they collectively decided to flee their homeland and move to a more peaceful setting. Together, they purchased this land they now call home.
We are working to improve their well being by starting this project, a clean cookstove project that will provide each family in the village with a new and improved stove. This is a technology that will improve many aspects of their lives: health, economics, and environment. Anything we can do to bring more peace to these people’s life is worth doing.
Some of the community members, men, women and children, take us to the school where we have already built a cookstove. They explain what they like and dislike about this stove so we can improve upon it and build stoves that will be widely accepted by the whole community. This is an important part of beginning a project: communication. Without the communities input, we would not be able to deliver meaningful services; our work would be meaningless, in fact, if we did not include the people in every step of the process.
We also visit the second school, for grades 0-3, where we will build the second stove. The women are busy cooking our dinner in the small kitchen area using a gas stove that is on loan to them from the government. This is a subsidized stove as part of a school nutrition program managed by the First Lady of Guatemala.
The women are excited that they will soon have a larger, two-burner clean cookstove to cook large meals on as well as huge batches of tamales. Sebastian and Claudia begin the discussion about what it is they will receive and why it is important. Reducing smoke, using less firewood, having a safer cooking environment; these are all exciting propositions for these women, who spend the majority of their lives in the kitchen.
Before we know it is dark and a meal is in front of us. A long day of preparation and travel is soon over. We fall asleep to the sound of the rainforest singing its lullaby to us. Tomorrow, we have a lot more work to do.