Building the Nicaraguan Center for Forests, Energy & Climate

Nicaraguan Center for Forests, Energy & Climate

Climate change affects us all. Around the world, communities are already suffering from its drastic local impacts, such as increased natural disasters, destructive weather patterns, and reduced crop yields. It’s time to take action.

Trees, Water & People is working with our long-time partner in Nicaragua, Proleña, to establish the Nicaraguan Center for Forests, Energy, & Climate near La Paz Centro, about an hour northwest of Managua.

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Proleña and TWP are working together to develop the Nicaraguan Center for Forests, Energy & Climate.

Working with our dedicated partner organization Proleña, we have already grown more than 3.7 million trees in Nicaragua. The new Center will not only grow and plant more seedlings, we will also provide hands-on demonstration plots to show how local people can integrate growing trees and growing food crops together in the new era of a changing climate.

We will also use the Center to continue to build and distribute our clean cookstoves to reduce firewood use and deforestation. To date, we have built and distributed more than 64,000 fuel-efficient stoves that also eliminate the toxic smoke that causes millions of women and children to get sick or die every year.

The new Center is ultimately about resilience – learning how to survive and even thrive despite a harsh new climate reality. To do that, we must provide a place where educators and students come to teach, work, and learn about the real impacts of climate change, what can be done about them, and how we can and will adapt.

2015 Nicaraguan Center for Forests, Energy & Climate timeline

For questions about the new Center please contact Sebastian Africano, International Director, at sebastian@treeswaterpeople.org.

ETHOS Conference Brings Clean Cookstove Sector Together in Seattle

A throwback to 2005 when I first started working with Trees, Water & People's Clean Cookstove Program as an intern.
A throwback to 2005 when I first started working with Trees, Water & People’s Clean Cookstove Program as an intern.

by Sebastian Africano, International Director

Almost 13 years ago, a fringe group of scientists, development practitioners, and academics came together to coordinate a response to an epidemic that claims over 4 million lives a year. That epidemic stems from the health problems caused by dirty indoor air – largely a result of cooking inside with solid fuels like firewood, charcoal, and dung.

The group that emerged from these meetings was named Engineers in Technical Humanitarian Opportunities of Service, or ETHOS, and has since helped catalyze a global movement based on the simple notion that cooking shouldn’t kill. I attended the third ETHOS conference held in Kirkland, WA in 2005, and I have just returned from the 13th, marking ten years since I entered the clean cookstove sector.

Trees, Water & People (TWP) and our partner’s understanding of how to design cookstoves appropriately, how to test them, how to increase adoption, and how to improve their durability has increased exponentially in the past ten years. Where there were only a handful of scattered groups dedicated to moving this work forward, there is now a Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, pushing to deploy 100 million cookstoves worldwide by the year 2020, with endorsements from public figures such as Hillary Clinton, Julia Roberts and Chef José Andrés.

Playing with fire (testing cookstoves) at ETHOS 2015.
Playing with fire (testing cookstoves) at ETHOS 2015.

While some groups focus on mass fabrication of cookstoves for export, other organizations like TWP focus on designing locally appropriate solutions using local materials, and creating jobs in the process. Advances in monitoring and evaluation and testing have taught us to gather evidence from the field, demonstrating how these technologies truly reduce firewood consumption, exposure to pollutants, and carbon emissions in the atmosphere, slowing the acceleration of climate change. With three billion people still depending on solid fuels for daily cooking needs, all involved are hitting the gas pedal to increase the quality, quantity, and impact of the clean cookstove sector.

In TWP’s case, this work gets done when donors like you support our Clean Cookstove Program with your generous donations. Just as we in the U.S. have a wide array of safe cooking technologies in our kitchens (count them!) for our varied cooking tasks, we believe that families living on the economic margins of society should have the same safe and clean options, even if they continue to use biomass fuels. So thank you for supporting this great work, and for following our progress in tackling the silent killer in the kitchen.

From the Board: Building the National Center for Biomass Energy and Climate Change

by Jon Becker, TWP Board Member

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TWP Executive Director Richard Fox at Proleña’s cookstove factory in Managua.

It’s Wednesday in Managua, which puts me in the middle of my 10 day Central American journey. Here in Nicaragua, Trees, Water & People’s Executive Director Richard Fox and I are completing a series of meetings with our long time partner, Proleña.  It is a very exciting time here – we are truly getting our hands dirty to launch one of our biggest projects in the region – the National Center for Biomass Energy and Climate Change.

NicaraguaSeveral years ago, with support from our donors as well as funds from the Rio Tinto Prize for Sustainability, we helped Proleña purchase a property in a rural area near the town of La Paz Centro, an hour northwest of Managua.  After years of planning, fundraising, and dreaming, we have finally started construction of the Center. Today I had the pleasure of walking the seven acre property with Proleña’s Director Marlyng Buitrago, Technical Director Leonardo Mayorga, Board member Juan Torres. We visited the two buildings that have already been constructed, chatted with our caretaker and his family who are living on the land, and imagined the day (soon!) when the views, including majestic Mt. Momotombo in the distance, would also feature the classrooms, dormitory, agroforestry demonstration areas, clean cookstove workshops, and more that will make up the Center.

A view of Momotombo from the National Center for Biomass Energy and Climate Change
A view of Momotombo as it rises near the shores of Lake Managua – a beautiful backdrop to the National Center for Biomass Energy and Climate Change.

The Center is a unique and critically important addition to the entire region’s capacity to restore and maintain forest health, expand the use of clean energy and appropriate technologies, and develop adaptation strategies to the already present impacts of climate change.  As such, it will embody a model worthy of replication as all of the world steps up to the challenge of climate change and the transition to renewable energy.

I was flashing back to similar feelings of excitement, concern, and hope that I felt just a few years ago walking the grounds of the mostly unfinished Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center in Pine Ridge, South Dakota.  I was remembering the flood of joy and satisfaction I reveled a little more than a year ago, when I was attended the grand opening of the Sacred Earth Lodge training center and dormitory at Pine Ridge. We did it before – we can do it again.  And I want to be there for La Fiesta!!

To learn more about the National Center for Biomass Energy and Climate Change in Nicaragua please visit our website.

The 2014 Year in Review

We are proud of all that we accomplished over the past 12 months with our local partners throughout Latin America and on tribal lands of the United States. Together, we are helping communities conserve their natural resources and create more sustainable livelihoods. Thank you for supporting our mission and programs. We look forward to a New Year with new possibilities!

year in review 2014

Guest Blog: Investigating the Health Impacts of Cookstove Pollution in Honduras

Honduras cookstove study
Women emerge from the mist carrying bags of potatoes in Zacate Blanco.

by Bonnie Young, Colorado State University

When you think of torrential downpours, mud-slick roads, and backcountry hiking, you might imagine an exciting episode of “The Amazing Race.” Our fieldwork in rural western Honduras was similar, although we lacked a camera crew and the promise of a grand prize.

As a postdoctoral researcher with Colorado State University (CSU), I worked side-by-side for two months with Sarah Rajkumar, another CSU postdoc, Jon Stack, a CSU volunteer, and Gloribel Bautista, a local coordinator. Our goal was to work with communities to enroll 500 women in villages in Yamaranguila and Intibucá. This was our first step in a three-year project to investigate the health impacts of cookstove-based pollution, and to learn about women’s perceptions and behaviors with different stove types.

Western Honduras
Beautiful views in this agricultural region in western Honduras, which boasts the highest elevation in the country of over 6,000 feet.

Most people in this agricultural region use wood-burning stoves to cook, heat their home, dry clothes, and generate light. Poor-functioning and inefficient stoves create household air pollution and demand excessive amounts of wood, meaning harmful effects on people’s health and the environment. Women and children often have greater exposure to indoor smoke since they tend to spend more time in the kitchen.

Knowing the importance of this research and its potential impacts fueled our daily slogs from house-to-house during the rainy season, where every hot cup of coffee and fresh corn tortilla felt like a grand prize.

Colorado State University field team
From left to right: CSU field team researchers, Jon Stack, Bonnie Young, Sarah Rajkumar, and Principal Investigator, Maggie Clark.

Note: The principal investigators of this study are Jennifer Peel, Ph.D., and Maggie Clark, Ph.D. Our work is in collaboration with Trees, Water & People, and a local Honduran development organization, AHDESA. Stay tuned for updates on this project during our next field session, February – May, 2015.

Community Voices: Juan Francisco Velasquez

by Sebastian Africano, International Director

clean cookstove guatemala
Chico and Florida are happy to have a safer and healthier home with their new clean
cookstove.

In every country where Trees, Water & People (TWP) builds clean cookstoves, we train local citizens in the design and construction of the stoves. These dedicated individuals work with community members throughout the entire process to create stoves that meet their specific cooking needs. In addition, stoves are built using local materials. Families invest in the stove by providing a portion of the materials needed as well as investing time in helping to construct the stoves.

Imagine: more than 63,000 cookstoves built to date, all designed and constructed by local citizens! This accomplishment gets at the core of TWP’s mission and vision – an emphasis on community-based natural resource management that benefits both people and the planet. Our projects are not successful unless local people are involved each step of the way.

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Inspecting Chico’s cookstove and happy to see how well it works for the family.

During our most recent visit to Guatemala, we saw this model in action. Juan Francisco “Chico” Velasquez and his wife Florida Vitalia welcomed us into their home to see their new clean cookstove. Chico and his family have benefited from the stove for eight months now, greatly reducing their fuelwood use and indoor air pollution in the home. Our partners at Utz Che’ worked with community members to design this stove to meet their unique cooking preferences.

Chico says, “Before we had the clean cookstove, I never knew food could smell so good! Now that there is no smoke in the kitchen, you can smell dinner cooking from outside the house and all the way down the street.”

To learn more about our Clean Cookstove Program click here.

Trees, Water & People 2013 Annual Report

The year 2013 was a powerful time for making new commitments, but also for completing some of our most needed and ambitious projects. It was a time when our nation was struggling still, but slowly improving from a period of fiscal instability.

We send a special heartfelt thank you to all of our donors and supporters that have provided their generous financial support, but also for the wisdom and advice that makes all of our projects possible!

Please click here to see our 2013 audited financial statements and 990s. For questions regarding our financials please email Diane Vella, Finance Director, at diane@treeswaterpeople.org or call 970-484-3678 ext. 22.

Partner Spotlight: Ut’z Che’

Ut’z Che ‘(good tree in Mayan language K’iche’) is a Guatemalan NGO that represents 36 community organizations dedicated to sustainable management of their forests, forest plantations, water sources, biodiversity and other natural resources.

utzche logoThe Association Ut’z Che’ was formed with the main objective to legitimately represent the demands and interest of their grassroots organizations in different sectors, effect change in public policy areas related to the management of forests, and assist with rural development in general. Another key part is to strengthen the capacities of its member organizations, to achieve conservation and sustainable productive use of natural resources.

In Guatemala – where the state does not respond to the needs and demands for comprehensive development – Utz Che has organized to defend and claim their rights.

“Communities have been protecting natural reserves for centuries but living in poverty. We want people to improve their livelihoods while protecting forests.”

We are honored to work with Ut’Z Che’ and the communities they represent. Together, we build clean cookstoves, plant trees, and distribute solar lighting to their members in Guatemala, all in an effort to empower local people and conserve the natural environment that is so important to their livelihoods.

To learn more please visit www.utzchecomunitaria.org

Bright Futures

bright futures

by Megan Maiolo-Heath, Marketing Manager

Within each community our work touches, we encounter the same desires among local citizens: a healthy life and a bright future for themselves, their children, and their grandchildren. I think this is a desire that most every human on Earth longs for and strives towards. We seek healthier minds, bodies, and spirits.

At Trees, Water & People, we design conservation projects with one important question in mind: How can we create a bright future for every person we work with? Our approach to conservation includes more than just environmental protection. We seek to improve all aspects of life, including human health and economic well-being.

children with solar light Honduras
Children in Honduras benefit from solar lighting technology.

An example of this can be seen within our Solar Energy Program, which brings clean energy, like solar lights and home energy systems, to families living without electricity. Solar energy reduces the use of natural resources and cuts harmful emissions while providing families with a better quality of life. Children can study at night, long after the sun has set. Families save money by replacing kerosene lamps and reducing mobile charging fees. And, health is improved by reducing pollution in the home.

Solar lighting systems are both literally, and figuratively, creating a brighter future for thousands of families who have been left in the dark. And, this can be seen with each of our community-based programs, including reforestation, clean cookstoves, solar heaters, and green job training. We provide local people in Central America, Haiti and on Native American reservation with the tools, training, and resources needed to tackle some of the greatest challenges facing their communities.

This is what inspires us each day and, from what so many donors have told us, this is what inspires other people to give to these important projects. Conservation can, and should, empower people to have a brighter future!

We hope you will continue to follow our work and progress. In the coming months, we will give you a closer look at how we are creating bright futures for thousands of families.

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