Celebrating World Water Day Every Day!

by Lucas Wolf, Assistant International Director聽

World Water Day is an important day in a long list of significant calendar dates, sharing the same week with International Day of Happiness, International Day of Forests, and The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. For those organizations that work with water, we know how critical it truly is as an element and necessity of all life on this planet. “Agua es vida, or water is life;” that simple yet profound phrase is uttered in communities across the Americas that have less water than most. It鈥檚 a statement and a refrain that captures the full awareness of the delicate nature of life and our total dependence on this one element.

At Trees, Water & People, we seek to expand on that awareness through programs that support enhanced water access in communities throughout Central America and the US. This year in Central America, our efforts with water will focus on rainwater catchment tanks in the Cordillera聽(mountain range) de Montecillos in the highlands of central Honduras. Our local counterparts, CEASO (Center for Teaching and Learning Sustainable Agriculture) were assisted by several TWP work trip participants this past January. CEASO’s philosophy towards water is holistic and profound; they see the importance of the forests, the soil, and the other elements existing in a balanced cycle that keeps our natural world healthy and able to support rural communities.

Rainwater tank
Work tour participants worked together with CEASO to complete a rainwater catchment tank!

In El Salvador, a country ravaged by deforestation, our counterparts at 脕rboles y Agua para el Pueblo diligently work to keep their nursery humming with new plants, which will go towards diversifying a smallholder plot or anchoring trees and their roots to a critical watershed. In Guatemala, our partners at Utz Che look to build rural resilience and increased access to water for marginalized indigenous and campesino communities in all of the geographic zones of the country.

La Bendici贸n, our special exchange community that has hosted two recent TWP work trips, seeks to find solutions for their water woes by capitalizing on the old coffee plantation infrastructure that they hope can be transformed to provide the community with more robust water security during the dry season. Here in Managua, work continues at NICFEC, the Nicaraguan Center for Forests, Energy, and Climate, which will serve as a demonstration center for best practices and methods to maximize water conservation and soil management for sustainable agriculture in a changing environment that is projected to see fewer rains in the future.

La Bendici贸n
Community members of La Bendici贸n working to repair old coffee plantation infrastructure to increase their water security.

Meanwhile, in the rest of the region, there are additional stark reminders of the critical importance of water. M茅xico City continues to sink due to continued overdrawing of its aquifers, the number of planned resorts for Costa Rica麓s booming Guanacaste region is in jeopardy due to a lack of available water, and here in Nicaragua, the land of the large freshwater lakes, many communities south of Managua face an acute shortage of water and virtual dependence on water distribution trucks.

In the United States, TWP stands with the Water Protectors of Standing Rock in their fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Over this past winter, we provided off-grid solar heaters and generators to provide warmth and energy to the protest camps. These camps are the frontline resistance in a struggle for critical water and natural resource sovereignty. All of our strategic partners are focused on water, and we at TWP are striving to find ways to boost our water-related projects as we continue to hear how critically important it is for the survival of our communities.

Examples abound across the globe, and these stories of water stress are reminders that we must continue to focus our efforts on conservation, education, and innovation to stem the looming water crisis. If you would like to support these Central American communities protect and improve their water resources, please donate today!

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TWP Celebrates International Day of the World’s Indigenous People

by Lucas Wolf, Assistant International Director

Today marks an important date on the calendar for indigenous communities around the world as the United Nations declares the International Day of the World麓s Indigenous Peoples. This year, the Indigenous Peoples Day highlights the importance of education for indigenous communities worldwide.

For the international and national partners of Trees, Water & People (TWP) as well as the home office employees, every day is indigenous people麓s day. Our tribal program in the US continues to break new ground on housing opportunities on the Pine Ridge Reservation, expand access to sustainable agriculture and improve food security, and work to reforest hillsides that have been decimated by fires and erosion. Our partnership with Henry Red Cloud has led to many educational opportunities for Native Americans over the years, such as business development courses, green job training, and sustainable building.

Solar Women Warrior Scholarship winners
These two young Native American women were the recipients of our Solar Women Warrior Scholarship and learned how to install solar air heaters. Here they are working on fans for a heater.

Internationally, with our partner Utz Ch茅 in Guatemala, we are also working to provide education opportunities, training, and capacity building for indigenous communities. In our primary community of La Bendici贸n, where we led two work tours last year, we continue to support training in beekeeping (two youth leaders attended an apiculture and permaculture workshop at the Mesoamerican Permaculture Institute in San Lucas de Toliman).

La Bendici贸n was founded in 2000 by two different indigenous communities that were displaced by the armed conflict in the 1990s in western Guatemala. They were relocated to an abandoned and defunct coffee plantation in the southeastern part of the country and were passed a bill for the value of the land, as assessed by the government. The discrepancy between the valuation of the land and what they received has characterized the next 16 years of their community鈥檚 existence. They have fought for dismissal of this over-inflated debt so they could get on with learning how to live separated from their ancestral land and people.

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Osvin Gom茅z of La Bendici贸n fits a wax mold into a frame for the beehive to build a new honeycomb.

According to Oswaldo Mauricio, our primary coordinator with La Bendici贸n and the director of Campesino exchanges for Utz Ch茅:

“The relationship between TWP, Utz Ch茅, and La Bendici贸n contributes to an enhanced quality of life in many different ways. Together we improve the overall reforestation and conservation of the forests, protect the watersheds and the rivers, moderate the use of firewood and pressures on the forest, and help smallholder farmers diversify their parcels (productivity projects). All these activities are the primary focal point for the creation of better educational opportunities, both informal and formal. All of these developments help to ensure clean and healthy food production and consumption for the families of La Bendici贸n.”

In addition to these efforts, our ongoing goal to build 500 clean cookstoves, in collaboration with Utz Ch茅 and two Guatemalan improved cookstove producers, EcoComal and Do帽a Dora, is helping to train and educate other Utz Ch茅 communities on the use and maintenance of the clean cookstoves. Your donation will allow indigenous communities in southern Guatemala to have access to these clean cookstoves, as well as the training they need to use and maintain them.

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15th Anniversary of La Bendici贸n

by聽Lucas Wolf, Assistant International Director

Today聽marks the 15th anniversary of the founding of one of our keystone communities, La Bendici贸n, in southeastern Guatemala. This community served as a gateway for us when we sought to deepen our presence in Guatemala through our local partner, The Association for Community Forestry, Utz Ch茅 (translates as 鈥淕ood Tree鈥 in the Kaqchiquel language). Utz Ch茅 introduced Trees, Water & People (TWP) to La Bendici贸n with hopes that we could develop a long-term relationship to address some of the long-term challenges the community faces, such as agrarian debt, isolation and lack of livelihood opportunities.

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Women of the La Bendici贸n community cooking.

La Bendici贸n was founded on June 7th, 2000 by two indigenous communities that were displaced by the armed conflict in the 1990s in western Guatemala. They were relocated to an abandoned and defunct coffee plantation in the southeastern part of the country and were passed a bill for the value of the land, as assessed by the government. The discrepancy between the valuation of the land and what they received would characterize the next 14 years of their community鈥檚 existence. They have fought for dismissal of this over-inflated debt so they could get on with learning how to live separated from their ancestral land and people.

Last year, which marked my first year with TWP, I was fortunate enough to visit the community on three different occasions. My first week with TWP, March 2015, I joined our International Director, Sebastian Africano on a work trip with 16 other participants from all over the U.S. It was a huge success and served as a great introduction to the critical partnership building and community development that are a hallmark of TWP麓s development model. Then, in October, I made an individual visit to work with Oswaldo Mauricio Orozco, who is both one of the community麓s main youth group leaders and the Coordinator for Campesino Exchanges at Utz Ch茅. During that visit, we analyzed lessons learned from the March work trip in preparation for the then-upcoming December-January work trip with the Geller Center and Unity of Fort Collins. These groups also had a tremendous experience during their time in the community.

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The work group from the Geller Center and Unity of Fort Collins learning about coffee farming.

Our efforts at La Bendici贸n are ongoing, with continued support in many strategic areas, including:

Agroforestry and apiculture聽– helping to strengthen and deepen the community麓s commitment to strengthening the full life cycle of the forest and diversifying livelihoods with value-added products.

Sustainable agriculture聽– while coffee remains the principal cash crop, pineapple plots have increased exponentially and they are now focused on commercialization and marketing of these high-quality fruits.

Capacity building and leadership聽– supporting the youth group in its efforts to lead on agriculture, livelihoods and forestry through important trainings and opportunities for education and professional growth.

Community forestry and ecotourism聽– from its founding, La Bendici贸n麓s leaders realized how important the surrounding forest is and they have worked tirelessly to manage the buffer zone with an eye toward conserving forest health. Ecotourism proposals and concepts are currently underway and the renovation of the main community center was a focus of the last work trip麓s efforts.

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Harvesting pineapple in La Bendici贸n.

Help us celebrate the anniversary of this special community by donating to our efforts to install 500 stoves in three Utz Ch茅 communities over the next two months. We are currently raising funds to complete the installation of these stoves with an eye toward expanding the project to Utz Ch茅鈥檚 network of 40+ indigenous partner communities across Guatemala. La Bendici贸n is one of these communities, and we are excited to continue to support them as they continue on a path of sustainable development, autonomy, and prosperity.

Feliz Aniversario!

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