Notes From the Field: Clean Cookstoves in Uganda


TWP's Sebastian Africano sits with UVAN founder Aga Sekalala during a site visit in Bugonia district, Uganda.

Notes From the Field by Sebastian Africano, TWP’s Deputy International Director:

BEEP!  While shocked that my Ugandan cell phone had been able to pick up a text message at 630am, GMT+3 in the outskirts of Gayaza, Uganda, the message that followed was even more unexpected:  “A long dry season has been predicted. Expect shortages of food, water & pasture. Store food and water to avoid hunger.  – The Office of the Prime Minister.”

I reflected back to the focus group we had held the day before with 30 women – wives of smallholders on the western banks of the Nile – where dust whipped through our conversation for the entire hour, as if to shush their aspirations and keep us from meaningful conversation.

TWP's Sebastian Africano leads a focus group discussion about cookstoves in Bugonia district, Uganda.

But I know that their opinion is secondary – everything here depends on the rains… and the rains have not come.

The vanilla crop this year is down.  Coffee, plantains and cassava aren’t doing much better.  Many are worried.  But these families have an advocate – in fact several – which through long-term planning, foresight, and decisive action are trying to ease their concerns.  UVAN, a top Ugandan exporter of vanilla, and the company that has brought me here, pays a premium for their beans (almost 3 times more than the international price), and provides farmers and their families with extension services in health, livelihoods and environment – a service few companies of this nature would be willing to invest in.

Vanilla blossoms are hand-pollinated, and only open for one day, making them one of the most labor-intensive crops to produce in the world.

UVAN is supported in their work by almost all of their buyers – it is part of the culture that the founder, Aga Sekalala, has instilled in his business, and he has remained true to it.  One of his partners is Fort Collins, CO based Rodelle Vanilla (, which happily pays the premium price for the beans Sekalala collects from his network of 9,000 farmers.  They also proudly support the extension services that UVAN provides, which teach farmers to thin their shade trees responsibly, to intercrop, to check-in regularly with UVAN’s mobile health services, and to seek support from UVAN’s savings and microloans programs, rather than harvesting prematurely to make a quick return in tough times.

So when Rodelle asked Trees, Water & People to advise them and UVAN as they launched a fuel-efficient cookstoves program for their farmers, we jumped at this unique opportunity.

Local leader of a Bugonia district community in a typical local kitchen.

One week into the project, we have traveled all over this amazing region meeting with women, with other NGOs acting locally, and with a range of stove manufacturers, slowly forming the foundation for what promises to be a far-reaching social and environmental contribution to this broad community of rural families, reducing the firewood they consume and cleaning the indoor air in their kitchens.

Rodelle Vanilla Partners Joe Basta and Dan Berlin, TWP Board Member Jeremy Foster, and two UVAN extensionists tour an intercropped vanilla plantation near Kayunga, Uganda.

Our goals are ambitious for the coming week, but we have had tremendous good fortune in building a strong network for the project, and UVAN’s extension team is one of the most impressive I’ve ever worked with.  So when I leave – one week from tomorrow – I know I will leave exhausted, but gratified to have had the opportunity to serve UVAN, Rodelle Vanilla and their network of farmers, and to have contributed to easing one concern that these families have as they wait for the rains to fall.

Read more about this new partnership in this recent article from the Coloradoan.

TWP Partners with Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Colorado on Innovative Cookstove Project

Trees, Water & People (TWP) has partnered with the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Colorado (RPCVCO) on a first-of-its-kind undertaking by an RPCV group that connects a U.S.-based development NGO with serving Peace Corps Volunteers in El Salvador to provide local communities with the necessary training to produce inexpensive, clean, and efficient cookstoves.

“I learned more about the work that Colorado-based nonprofit Trees, Water and People (TWP) does — and thought the fact that it was founded by an RPCV and that they provided blueprints for how to build cookstoves seemed like a better fit for Peace Corps Volunteers,” says Arianne Burger (Kazakhstan 99-01), President of RPCVCO, “I also thought that it would be an amazing way for our group to celebrate Peace Corps’ 50th anniversary.”

Peace Corps Volunteers will work with TWP’s El Salvador partner organization Arboles y Agua para El Pueblo (AAP), who will conduct 3 regional training workshops on how to build fuel-efficient cookstoves in communities where Volunteers are currently serving.

Peace Corps volunteers in El Salvador receive training on how to build the fuel-efficient Justa stove.

Each Volunteer will then return to their respective local communities to organize their own trainings.  The budget of  $9,000 will pay for 3 regional workshops a year, with 45 total volunteers trained, and 60 local community leaders trained (105 total).  This budget amount will cover the cost of travel and accommodations for the training, as well as materials and supplies for each person to build a stove during the training.

To raise funds for the pilot project, RPCVCO will be selling screen prints designed by Idaho Stew + Ink Lounge.  Click here to purchase a poster and help support this innovative partnership (See poster below).

To learn more about the Peace Corps Clean Cookstove Project click here.

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

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

We are Proud to Partner with Green Ride Colorado!

We have partnered with Green Ride Colorado, a Fort Collins-based transportation company, to offer carbon offsetting services to their passengers.  Through this new partnership, Green Ride customers can directly contribute to TWP’s reforestation programs in Central America and Haiti, while reducing their personal carbon footprint and providing the gift of nutrition and food security to communities in need.

For every Green Ride reservation made through the Trees, Water & People reservation portal (, one fruit tree or Moringa tree will be planted in either Central America or Haiti.  Green Ride customers also have the option to donate as many as five trees for every reservation they make, providing a simple and innovative way for each passenger to make their travel even more environmentally friendly.

Ray Schofield and Bob Flynn, the founders and owners of Green Ride Colorado shared this statement:

“It is great to work with Trees, Water & People, an organization with great character and principles, and to offer Green Ride customers another way to make the world a better place to live.”

About Green Ride Colorado

Green Ride is a locally owned and operated transportation company, based in Fort Collins, Colorado, that provides convenient and affordable shuttle service between Laramie, Cheyenne, Fort Collins and Denver International Airport. Green Ride provides convenient, sustainable transportation services for Northern Colorado with friendly Green Team Members, advanced technology and an environmentally friendly operational model.  To learn more please visit

Planting for a better future in Haiti.

Update: 24 Cookstoves Built in 3 Days

A stove beneficiary in San Jose de Bocay stands next to her new fuel-efficient cookstove, built by Virginia Tech students, residents of Blacksburg, and TWP partner Proleña in early January 2011.

At the beginning of this month we did a post on the sister city relationship between Blacksburg, VA and San Jose de Bocay, Nicaragua (see post here).  Well, the trip was a great success!  Here is little update from trip leader and Blacksburg resident Jim Bier:

“We had a great week in San jose de Bocay.  The whole group was great, the arrangements worked well and we manged to build 24 stoves in 3 long days, and greatly strengthen our sister-city relationships in San Jose de Bocay.”

Thank you to the Virgina Tech students, residents of Blacksburg, and Proleña for all of your hard work!

TWP’s International Team Joins Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves’ Working Groups

Stuart Conway, TWP’s co-founder and International Director, and Sebastian Africano, TWP’s Deputy International Director, will serve on the “Reaching Consumers” and “Monitoring and Evaluation” Working Groups for the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves in New York City this September with a commitment to saving lives, improving livelihoods, empowering women, and combating climate change by creating a thriving global market for clean cookstoves.  Since the launch, the Alliance has been working on activities that will help them achieve the goal of having 100 million homes adopt clean and efficient cookstoves and fuels by 2020.

One important step the Alliance has undertaken is the creation of nine working groups that will be charged with identifying and prioritizing the critical steps necessary for the sector to reach a ‘tipping point’.

Sebastian Africano leads a clean cookstove focus group in Haiti.

These outputs will form the basis of both a public ‘Clean Cookstoves Sector-wide Priorities Report’ as well as the long-term strategic plan of the Alliance.

The Alliance Working Groups include the following nine topics: Health, Climate Research, Standards and Testing, Technology and Fuels, Finance and Investment, Carbon Finance, Reaching Consumers, Humanitarian, and Monitoring and Evaluation. Each Working Group is chaired by two leaders in the cookstoves field, populated with experts from the cookstoves sector or related fields, and will be operational through mid-2011.

“These Working Groups offer an excellent opportunity for Alliance partners to help shape the future of the Alliance — and the clean cooking sector – over the life of the initiative and beyond. The groups will each identify and prioritize a suite of critical steps necessary for the sector to reach a “tipping point.” These outputs will form the basis of both a public “Clean Cookstoves Sector-wide Priorities” report, as well as the Alliance’s long-term strategic plan.”

Spots Still Available on the 2011 EcoTour!

Join us for the 2011 EcoTour to Guatemala; the adventure of a lifetime!  Experience our international community development programs through an exciting hands-on adventure in beautiful Central America.

“It was not until my hands-on experience that I truly came to appreciate the far-reaching effect my contributions had in assisting this wonderful organization to pursue their mission … I was able to observe the needs of the Nicaraguan and Honduran people first hand and to experience the sense of hope a new stove brought to the women and children.”
-Tim Holzheimer, EcoTour Participant

The 2011 EcoTour will visit both cultural sites as well as Trees, Water & People’s project sites, where you will have the opportunity to plant trees and build fuel-efficient cookstoves with members of the communities we serve.

Don’t miss this opportunity to experience Guatemala and all the rich culture it has to offer!  For more information on how you can sign-up please call Claudia at (970) 484-3678 or email

EcoTour 2009 participants help build a fuel-efficient Justa stove for a family in Guatemala. (Photo by Don Usner)

Tis’ the Season for Giving: Facebook Causes “Holiday Wish” is Here!

Start a holiday wish to benefit Trees, Water & People’s Facebook Causes!

Are you passionate about tribal lands renewable energy, reforestation in Latin America, or clean cookstoves in Haiti?

You can donate your holiday wish to any one of TWP’s Facebook Causes, and help us bring light to people’s lives this holiday season.  Visit one of our causes below or click here to help us fundraise!

Trees, Water & People’s Causes:

Back to Haiti: A Note from TWP’s Deputy International Director

Deputy International Director Sebastian Africano hangs out with Haitian children at an IDP camp in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Dear Friends,
Today I embark on a 6-week trip to Central America and Haiti to visit the international programs of Trees, Water & People (TWP). November 5-18, I will be in Haiti and below are a few key activities on my itinerary:

  1. Arrive in Port-au-Prince and conduct analysis of Rocket stove distribution and monitoring of 7,000 household stoves with our partner, International Lifeline Fund (ILF).
  2. Discuss next steps for the development of a comprehensive National Stove Strategy for institutional and household stoves in Haiti.
  3. Visit original beneficiary families of TWP emergency relief stoves in Sineas Camp, Port-au-Prince.
  4. Visit new beneficiary families in Corail and Isa Tabare.
  5. Participate in United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) meeting to develop the National Improved Stove strategy in conjunction with the Haitian Government (TWP has an advisory role to the working group).
  6. Visit beneficiaries of TWP’s stove project in the Central Plateau of Haiti, as well as reconnect with the MPP – a rural peoples movement that is very interested in promoting fuel-efficient stoves to their 61,000 members. They have an abandoned ceramics facility that could become the foundation of a new local stove factory.
  7. Visit northern Haiti to assess the access to raw materials for stove building through ports and overland crossings from the Dominican Republic.

If you are interested in sending stoves to Haiti, click here.  Our Haitian friends need our continued support during these difficult times.

Kind Regards,

Give More, Get More Matching Campaign for Haiti

Donate to TWP’s 1,344 Stoves for Haitians Displaced by Earthquake project featured on between October 12-21 and your donation will be matched up to 50%.  Now’s the perfect time to make your year-end gift go even further!

Matching Scale
$10 – $499   =  30% match
$500 – $999  =     40% match
$1,000 – $2,500   =  50% match


Why give to this project?? It has been 10 months since the devastating 7.0 earthquake hit Haiti and hundreds of thousands of Haitians are still struggling to survive in temporary Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps. Having lost everything, earthquake victims are in desperate need of basic necessities. This project will provide fuel-efficient Rocket stoves to 1,344 Haitian families in IDP camps so that women may cook their family’s food safely and boil water for drinking.

Hurry to make your donations before the matching funds are gone!!

A Haitian woman cooks on her StoveTec fuel-efficient stove in an IDP camp in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.