About this photo
Sebastian Africano and Benjamin Osorto meet with community members in Honduras who are currently using our solar lights. Feedback from the community is what makes our projects a success!
by Sebastian Africano, International Director
It’s a strange and heavy burden you feel when you’re travelling through what is meant to be the second largest contiguous rainforest in the Americas, and you see more cattle than wildlife, more slash and burn desolation than old growth, and few signs of land-use planning or enforcement of regulations meant for protected areas. The Reserve of Man and Biosphere of the Río Plátano in Eastern Honduras is part ecological gem, part three alarm fire, with pristine jungle being continually converted to ranch land, to provide income to a continuously growing population of colonists from around the country.
Trees, Water & People (TWP) is fortunate to have both access to the communities of the Biosphere, and the support of a team of dedicated individuals determined to implement a combination of programs that would create alternatives to the current norm in this remote, off-grid region of the country. The common ingredient in all of our proposals is sustainable livelihoods – identifying appropriate, income generating activities that are as or more lucrative than cattle ranching, and which are restorative rather than destructive.
Through simultaneous investments in promoting shade-grown cacao, coffee and maya nuts with partner GIZ PRORENA and training entrepreneurs to sell affordable solar lighting technologies and clean cookstoves with partners AHDESA and USAID ProParque, we are stimulating activities that result in forest conservation, environmental education and income diversification – three foundations on which we can begin to build a more sustainable future for the Biosphere.
This challenge, however difficult, is always made easier with the support of TWP’s indefatigable donors and followers. This is our North American Amazon, the lungs of our planet, and a treasure worth protecting for our collective benefit.
Please visit www.treeswaterpeople.org to learn more about this and other projects, and to donate in support of creating alternative livelihoods for the inhabitants of this fragile ecosystem.
Learn more about our work with the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas here.
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.
Richard and I are up at 5:30 for a quick breakfast at Hotel Don Quijote before Marlyng Buitrago comes to pick us up for our first field day in Nicaragua. Marlyng is the sharp, do-everything force of nature who significantly drives PROLEÑA, our in-country partner here of many years. We travel through the Managua morning light and teeming crowds of pedestrians – people heading to jobs, uniformed kids on their way to school. First stop – Managua Channel 14, where we are guests on a chatty morning talk show. Marlyng has arranged the publicity as part of this week’s upcoming event to mark the inauguration of the Nicaraguan National Climate Change Center, a partnership dreamed up by TWP and PROLEÑA, with additional support from ECPA, the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas. The talk is about clean cookstoves, reforestation, help for the poor, renewable energy, and Nicaragua taking a leadership role in the whole Central American region in facing a changing future. We wrap up, run out the door, and dash across town to Channel 12, where we do the same thing over again. This time we follow a local rap group, which I hope has the TV audience charged up to hear our message. It’s all live TV, and I’d say Richard and Marlyng nail it in one take (as if they had a choice!).
Now it’s field time, we get back in the PROLEÑA truck, and head out of Managua to the northwest, with the huge expanse of Lake Managua on our right, El Volcan Momotombo peeking in and out of our horizon. Instantly, the urban, barrio scene of Managua gives way to rural and open space, scattered trees (due to decades of over cutting), and dessicated grasslands (we’re in the middle of the dry season now). About 45 kilometers up the road, in the rolling hills near La Paz Centro, we pull over at a nondescript spot along the road, get out, and remove a section of fencing so we can begin our walk on a piece of land we helped PROLEÑA purchase last year. These six acres probably have an assortment of rural agricultural past lives, including cattle grazing, and we find a few fruit trees as we walk. But Marlyng’s eyes and spirit are charged as she gives us the tour of the future home of the Nicaraguan National Center for Climate Change.
PROLEÑA has spent the last decade inventing itself as a leader in reforestation, clean cookstoves, and bio-mass energy issues, and now dares to imagine embracing an even broader agenda of critical environmental and development issues facing their people. She tells us of plans for classroom buildings, cookstove production facilities, tree planting areas, and renewable energy demonstrations. It gives me chills to squint my eyes and imagine this becoming real. Challenges – financial, political, and practical – and years of hard work stand in between us in these empty fields and one day seeing the National Climate Change Center serving all of Central America. But today, alongside Marlyng and Richard, I am a believer. This work will be possible with the combined efforts of PROLEÑA, ECPA, and you, as a supporter of Trees, Water & People.
The Center will have a variety of renewable energy and energy efficiency demonstrations including the solar electric array, a full series of Cleantech solar products, and various clean cookstove models and kilns. In addition, it will focus on researching and transferring best practices for integral forest management to the Nicaraguan forestry community and industry. The Center is being developed as an educational demonstration site that will help institutions, NGOs, and Community-based Organizations (CBOs) learn how to adapt to climate change.
This project is made possible through funding from the ECPA’s energy and climate awards. Trees, Water & People, along with partner organizations, are implementing “Improving Access to Clean Energy in Latin America.” The project activities will contribute to ECPA’s efforts to promote clean energy, low carbon development, and climate-resilient growth.
In the coming years, we will have many exciting updates on our work with ECPA in Central America. We hope you will stay tuned!
To learn more about TWP’s work with ECPA click here.