When They Win, We All Win!

by Sebastian Africano, International Director 

One great thing about working at Trees, Water & People (TWP), is that victories can come from any of several directions, at any time. We keep multiple irons in the fire at TWP, as we deliver impact in many forms, and our partners are versatile, talented, and irrevocably dedicated to improving life for the most vulnerable people in their respective countries.

In 2017 no victory thus far has been as satisfying as the news we received last week from our long-time partners, Árboles y Agua para el Pueblo (AAP) of El Salvador. For seven years, with TWP support, they’ve been working with a ring of communities surrounding a lush and threatened National Park, San Rafael Los Naranjos, in the west of the country. They’ve implemented clean cookstoves, environmental education programs, interpretive park management training, small-scale solar lighting systems, and sustainable agriculture training in communities surrounding the park, and have gained a tremendous amount of trust and credibility for creating impact in a notoriously challenging environment.

Tree nursery
Árboles y Agua para el Pueblo’s (AAP) tree nursery has produced hundreds of thousands of trees for western El Salvador and provides agroforestry training to small farmers.

That credibility became all the more tangible this week, as AAP was officially named co-managers of the park by El Salvador’s Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources. As part of this role, they will help train and support the park’s rangers in working with the communities that live in, and around, this protected area. This is a prestigious honor for this small and dedicated group of conservationists.
But that’s not all…

Armando accepting a grant
Armando Hernandez Juárez accepting a grant on behalf of Árboles y Agua para el Pueblo from the Initiative Fund for the Americas (FIAES).

Almost concurrently, AAP received notice in a public ceremony that they were one of four NGOs in the country approved for a 12-month grant from the Initiative Fund for the Americas (FIAES) to help them expand their programs in San Rafael Los Naranjos. This grant will permit them to continue the important work of making this park a destination for Salvadorans and international travelers alike while ensuring that livelihoods in the communities surrounding the park improve in parallel with the health of the park’s ecosystems and biodiversity.

We are a capacity building organization. When our partners win in this way, our donors can be certain that their investments in TWP are doing exactly what they’re supposed to do. Your support, be it small or large, infrequent or monthly through our Evergreen Circle, helps make these victories happen, and we are grateful for it. These victories remind us that working together, we can still do much good in the world. And when TWP’s partners win, WE ALL WIN.

FELICIDADES AND CONGRATULATIONS, AAP!

You can be a capacity builder, too! Please donate to Trees, Water & People today to ensure great partnerships like this one continue! 

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Project Update: El Salvador Tree Nursery Finds New Home

Ampliación de ingreso al terreno

In 2001, we formed a partnership with environmental conservation leaders in El Salvador, who created Arboles y Agua para El Pueblo (AAP) to address natural resource issues within the country. The organization is led by Armando Hernandez and his dedicated staff who work tirelessly to protect the precious natural resources of El Salvador.

Over the past year, the AAP team has been working to construct a new tree nursery in El Porvenir, with a capacity of 40,000-50,000 trees. The new nursery will go online in January of 2016.

Armando writes (as translated by Sebastian Africano):

“Since the beginning of December we have proceeded with site preparations to install the nursery, including the leveling of the surface via the provision of additional soil and compaction. Some of the soil purchased will be used for filling bags, for which we’ve hired auxiliary personnel. Additionally, we have gone out to cut and haul bamboo for posts and pillars to support the shade cloth over the nursery. Finally, we repaired and fortified the entry to the site, and are soliciting our connection to the municipal water system for irrigation.

Siembra de Huertas y árboles aledaño al cerco del terreno

During this period we will be dedicated to transferring and installing our new nursery, which requires that we contemplate the area that will be dedicated to the trees themselves, as well as the area we will use to grow squash, chayote and other foods and flowers that attract beneficial insects, like bees, and keep pests away from the seedlings.

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In terms of the infrastructure that we intend to install, we will include a shed space to deposit equipment, tools, materials and agricultural inputs (fertilizers, fungicides) needed in the nursery. We want to be sure to reserve a space for a staff person that will eventually stay at the site and care for the nursery and the assets onsite. We are in the process of designing the layout of the terrain with its associated budget, and making sure that the nursery will not be disturbed during the construction of the other components.”

Working with such a dedicated team of environmentalists in El Salvador has been an honor for our staff. To date, the AAP team has planted nearly 700,000 trees throughout the country. With this new nursery, we look forward to what the future holds for AAP and TWP.

To support TWP’s Reforestation efforts in El Salvador and throughout Central America and Haiti please click here.

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

Warm Wishes from El Salvador

We recently received this letter from Armando Hernandez Juarez, our long-time partner in El Salvador and Director of Arboles y Agua para el Pueblo. Armando is a leader in environmental conservation in Central America and we are honored to work with him.  His words meant so much to all of us here at Trees, Water & People that we thought we would them with you too!

(Letter translated by Sebastian Africano)

clean cookstove El Salvador
TWP’s International Director, Sebastian Africano (left) and Armando Hernandez Juarez (right) stand with a clean cookstove beneficiary in El Salvador.

Dear Richard Fox and our family at Trees, Water & People,

My sincere congratulations on celebrating 15 years of achievements, contribution to the environment and thus to this land that gives us life, food and clothing.

What better way to celebrate 15 years of TWP than with the satisfaction we get from raising the dignity of the people whom we support with your projects, and with the tireless effort and human sensitivity with which the TWP family does its work.  

On this occasion I also take other opportunity to warmly greet another of the pioneers of this work, I refer to Mr. Stuart Conway; a great benefactor and visionary, as his efforts have led to concrete works in our country El Salvador, benefiting a large number of families and communities through the establishment and production of countless trees that have protected groundwater resources, climate and forest recovery in general, as well as the provision of stoves that have actually contributed to improving the socioeconomic conditions of families have benefited from this project.

I do not want it to go unnoticed that the unconditional efforts of the TWP family have also helped reduce pollution levels and therefore prevent infectious diseases in families and communities who have been favored with latrines projects.

It is gratifying that our work in El Salvador through TWP leaves a trail of impact in communities and even public and private institutions and service organizations such as the Peace Corps Office who use our support to develop projects that benefit the target population of their programs.

Trees, Water & People Family, may the fifteen years that we celebrate on this occasion be multiplied continually.

Respectfully, if you will allow me, receive my thanks for being part of TWP.

Attentively,

 Armando Hernandez Juarez

Partner Spotlight: A Voice for Conservation in El Salvador

by Elliot Cooper, International Program Coordinator

Armando Hernandez, Director of Arboles y Agua para El Pueblo

Armando Hernandez has been Trees, Water & People’s link to sustainable reforestation and clean cookstove implementation in El Salvador since 2000. Currently the Director of Arboles y Agua para el Pueblo (AAP), this outgoing, gregarious, and considerate Salvadoreño has been the mastermind of these projects since the very beginning and, to this day, he continues to work as hard as he did more than a decade ago.

Don Armando, as he is known throughout the TWP office, is a courteous and respectful individual, always taking into account the well-being of his staff while balancing the needs and wants of the many communities he serves.

“This is a difficult country to work in because environmental awareness is only a secondary concern to the general population,” notes Don Armando. “In the communities we work in, there is a significant lack of jobs and opportunities for advancement, so people only worry about themselves and don’t think about the natural world that surrounds them.”

Even with the challenges that present themselves on a daily basis in El Salvador, Don Armando has overseen the planting of more than 555,000 trees and the successful construction of nearly 4,200 clean cookstoves.

“The best part of my job is contributing to the improvement of lives of not only individuals, but also families and communities through our projects. Whether it is stoves, reforestation, latrines, or soil conversation courses, we bring our environmental message to everyone in order to shift values and drastically improve lives of our fellow Salvadoreños.”

Armando Hernandez (center) with staff of Arboles y Agua para el Pueblo

Notes from the Field: Soil Conservation Project Gains Ground

By David Velasquez, Arboles y Agua para el Pueblo Forestry Technician
Translated and adapted by Claudia Menendez, International Program Coordinator

el salvador soil conservation
Francisco’s family depends on their land for their livelihood.

Francisco Sayes has been participating in the Soil Conservation Project since Trees, Water & People and Arboles y Agua para el Pueblo (AAP) initiated the workshop series in 2010. He understands that using good agricultural practices on his land helps minimize production costs and increases crop quality.

“The knowledge we’ve gained through the workshops have helped me save money, but most importantly they’ve improved the quality, taste, and health of my corn crop.”

The Soil Conservation Project taught Francisco how to use organic fertilizer, such as chicken manure, to improve crop results. Last year, he applied 20 sacks of organic chicken manure fertilizer on his corn crop. The cost of each sack is $1, compared to previous years when he spent $70 for one sack of chemical fertilizer. “This technique I learned not only helped me save $50, but I clearly noticed the corncobs were bigger, healthier, and the corn grain more solid.”

Francisco Sayes with his ‘A’ frame for digging contour lines on his farm in El Salvador.

Additionally, Francisco has gained a better understanding of the layout and topography of his land using an ‘A’ frame to dig contour lines, and has planted sorghum and grasses such as Vetiver. These help maximize rainfall absorption on the slopes, minimize soil erosion, and provide forage for his animals.

Along the perimeter of the 1.75 acres of farmland, Francisco has planted three species of hardwood trees as a living fence: Laurel criollo (Cordia alliodora), Madre cacao (Gliricidia sepium), and Memble (Poeppigia procera). He incorporates all the leaves, enriching and protecting the soil, and prunes the trees to control the amount of shade over the crops. In turn, the tree pruning provides Francisco and his family with their daily supply of firewood.

Since 2010, TWP and local partner AAP have trained more than 60 farmers in soil conservation methods. The most important and challenging part of this project is making sure that the farmers try implementing the techniques on their own land. David, AAP’s forestry technician and workshop facilitator, says that once farmers practice the techniques and see for themselves improved soil conditions and better crops, they realize that a little extra effort makes all the difference.

Arboles y Agua para el Pueblo (AAP) Secures $30,000 Grant in El Salvador

The AAP team at a fuel-efficient cookstove workshop in El Salvador

Trees, Water & People is very proud to announce that our partner in El Salvador, Arboles y Agua para el Pueblo (AAP), has successfully secured a $30,000 project with the environmental government agency Fondo de la Iniciativa para las Américas de El Salvador (FIAES).  AAP will be working in a protected natural area of El Aguila in the conservation area of Apaneca – Ilamatepec.

The protected natural area of El Aguila in the conservation area of Apaneca – Ilamatepec.

The project will implement the following: 1) formulation of a natural resource conservation and solid waste management plan jointly with the Ministry of Environment and the beneficiary community Ojo de Agua; 2) construction of 20 fuel-efficient cookstoves in Ojo de Agua that borders the protected area and highly depends on its natural resources for subsistence; 3) installation of 16 PV systems- 15 home 5 watt systems and  one 10 watt for the community school as electricity does not reach the community; 4) creation of environmental education workshops and activities including tree planting, kitchen garden development, and hygiene and sanitation for the school children, community members, and park rangers; 5) training  of forest rangers; and 6) design and production of signage for interpretative hiking trails through the protected area.

FIAES started from a Bilateral Covenant between the Governments of El Salvador and the United States of America to pardon approximately $464 million in foreign debt, leaving $150 million to be repaid. The proposal was ratified in 1993, establishing that El Salvador would pay some $41.2 million of the interests on this debt during 20 years, generating an extinguishable fund to finance environmental and childhood survival projects under FIAES management.  Recognizing the work of the Fund, new funds were granted in 2001 to support projects in Tropical Forests for the amount of $14.4 million, to be invested during a period of 25 years.

For more information please visit http://www.fiaes.org.sv/eng/about.php

To learn about the environmental crisis in El Salvador read this article!