Capacity Building to Combat Climate Change in Central America

by Sebastian Africano, International Director

At Trees, Water & People we operate under the belief that communities living closest to natural resources are the best situated to manage them in a sustainable manner. National or Departmental governments often have the mandate to designate protected areas, but are also often strapped for funds to properly monitor use and enforce protections. Communities living along the edges of these protected areas understand the value of these areas, but often their agricultural activities are at odds with ecosystem health. Pressures between the communities and the protected areas grow even more acute in periods of drought or crop disease, which has been the norm in Central America for the past four years.

There are many who believe there are better ways to work with these families rather than monitoring and enforcing against their incursions into the protected area. Instead of seeing communities as an implicit threat against these treasures, we at Trees, Water & People see a resource that merits development. That’s why we’ve started a new Capacity Building Fund – a donor supported fund that allows us to send our implementing partners to attend training opportunities in their region that help build climate resilience. For instance, we are currently sponsoring two indigenous youth group leaders in Guatemala. These leaders want to develop skills in sustainable agriculture at a 10-day course at the Insituto Mesoamericano de Permacultura (IMAP), which they will in-turn teach to their community. We are also raising funds for two longtime partners from El Salvador and Honduras to attend a 3 week workshop on protected area management. This course is taught by CATIE and Colorado State University’s Center for Protected Area Management.

One of the participants in this second training is Armando Hernandez, Director of Arboles y Agua para el Pueblo (AAP), our partner organization in El Salvador. His team recently finished the first phase of a project in the Biosphere Reserve Apaneca-Ilamatepec in Western El Salvador. There they worked with communities surrounding the biosphere to develop a management plan. This included training park rangers and local guides from the community, developing biodiversity curriculum for the local schools, mapping and adding signage to the trails, starting an agroforestry program with help from a local coffee farm, and implementing fuel-efficient clean cookstoves that use less woodfuel than the traditional alternative.

Armando w ECPA Tile on Justa clean stove
Armando Hernandez, Director of Arboles y Agua para el Pueblo (AAP), with a Mejorada clean cookstove.

René Santos Mata of the Center for Education in Sustainable Agriculture (CEASO) is conducting a similar process with twelve communities in the Cordillera de Montecillos, a mountain range in Central Honduras that provides water to three major watersheds and acts as a stopover for migratory birds with threatened status in the U.S.

Rene with members of his sommunity
René Santos Mata of CEASO working with his community members to develop a biosphere management plan.

Building the capacity of key actors with access to agricultural communities near protected areas creates a multiplier effect that results in a better relationship between community members and the natural resources on which their livelihoods depend.  Please visit the current home of our Capacity Building Fund to support the costs of this training for Armando and René. And be sure to check back with us quarterly to see new pairings of the people that help implement our programs and the educational opportunities they are pursuing. As always, thank you for supporting Trees, Water & People, and please pass this post to friends and loved ones that would be interested to hear about our work.

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Gratitude for Community

Gratitude is a habit of the heart

As the holiday season nears, we wanted to take a moment to express our gratitude for you, our friends and generous donors, who make our work possible. We are so thankful for your continued support and we hope you know that we’re honored you have chosen to be a member of our community.

Over the past 18 years, we have helped tens of thousands of people live healthier, happier lives, while also protecting and conserving the environment. Our work is community-based, which means nothing gets done without groups of people coming together and working to make the world better for themselves and others. To see this cooperation and dedication to people and the planet is humbling to say the least. I really believe there is nothing that can stop us when we work together!

Volunteers, staff members, donors, program partners, community members – all from diverse walks of life – are the lifeblood of our organization. And, we truly are making a difference. Thank you!

With generosity,

Richard W. Fox
Executive Director

The Justa Cookstove: Community-Based Development in Action


Trees, Water & People’s unique community-based development model is based on the philosophy that the best way to help those most in need is to involve them¬†directly¬†in the design and implementation of local environmental and economic development initiatives. This creates ownership, involvement, and financial sustainability well into the future. Our proven development model of training and execution, coupled with an enterprise approach, engages and inspires local residents to preserve their precious natural resources. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO), estimates that 4 million people die each year from illnesses caused by indoor air pollution.

So, what does our community-based model look like in action?

The Justa Cookstove: An Example of Community-Based Development in Action

Do√Īa Justa clean cookstove Honduras

identify_community_needsIn Honduras, like many developing countries around the world, cooking is done over an inefficient, open fire inside the home. Breathing the toxic smoke can lead to acute respiratory illness, pneumonia, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, among other health problems. Women and children are most seriously affected, as they are the family members who spend the most time in the kitchen.

In addition, the inefficiencies of an open fire result in large amounts of wood from local forests being consumed to provide fuel for cooking. In Honduras, deforestation rates are rising yearly, contributing to global climate change.

partner_with_local_organizationsAfter Hurricane Mitch ravaged Honduras in 1998, Trees, Water & People and the¬†Asociaci√≥n Hondure√Īa para el Desarrollo¬†(AHDESA) teamed up with the¬†Aprovecho Research Center¬†and¬†Rotary International¬†to work with a women’s group in the town of Suyapa to adapt fuel-efficient,¬†clean cookstove¬†combustion principles to traditional cooking habits.

design_and_implement_projects (1)The result was the¬†Justa¬†stove, named after community leader Do√Īa Justa Nu√Īez (pictured above with staff from TWP). The¬†Justa¬†clean cookstove is made out of brick and mortar and is built directly into the home. Higher combustion rates and efficiency are achieved by the¬†“Rocket Elbow”, an L-shaped combustion chamber that allows wood to burn up to 70% more efficiently. The body of the stove is insulated with wood ash or other locally available material and is topped with a removable metal cooking surface, or¬†plancha. A built-in chimney vents harmful gases and particulates from the kitchen. Since the stove was designed, hundreds of people throughout Honduras have been trained on how to build and properly maintain this particular type of clean cookstove, helping to spread this life-changing technology well beyond our immediate reach.

evaluate_and_monitor_projectsOver our 16 year history, we have continued to bring clean Justa cookstoves to the people of Honduras, concentrating our efforts in the Guacerique Watershed outside of the capital city of Tegucigalpa. TWP staff and partners track and monitor the progress of these stoves, visiting beneficiary households and testing to ensure that stoves hold up to daily use over an extended period of time. Feedback about the Justa cookstove has led to multiple iterations of this model, making it one of the most popular cookstove designs in the region.

To learn more about all of our clean cookstove designs, please visit our website.