Happy International Women’s Day

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At Trees, Water & People, we are truly indebted to the local women who make our projects in Central America and Haiti successful. Women in each community our work touches provide our staff and local partners with the guidance necessary for implementing successful, long-term solutions to the problems facing their communities. The feedback we receive informs our clean cookstove designs, mobilizes community members, and inspires change for a better future.

We hope you will take this time to think about how the women in your life are making this world a better place for all – and thank them!

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Conserving Guatemala’s Forests with Clean Cookstoves

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Community members gather for a clean cookstove demo hosted by Utz Che’. Local women help to design the fuel-efficient stoves based on their cooking habits and preferences.

by Sebastian Africano, International Director

After six months of planning, we are proud to launch into an ambitious clean cookstove initiative with our partner Utz Che’ in Guatemala.  From now through August 2016, Trees, Water & People (TWP) and Utz Che’ will be building 500 new clean cookstoves in three indigenous communities in the departments of Chiquimula, Jutiapa, and Escuintla.

Clean cookstoves provide many benefits to rural, indigenous families who do not have access to the electrical grid. These stoves remove smokey, open fires from the kitchen, greatly reducing deadly household air pollution. In addition to the human health benefits, cookstoves also reduce deforestation. In Guatemala, over 71% of the nation’s 14 million people are dependent on wood to cook every meal. This demand for fuelwood has put a huge strain on one of the country’s most precious natural resources: the forests.  Each stove uses about 50% less wood every time a meal is cooked, taking pressure off of the country’s forests and saving families money and time.

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Utz Che’ (“good tree” in the Maya K’iche’ language) is a unique organization as it is an association that represents 36 autonomous indigenous groups from around Guatemala, all working toward economic and environmental sustainability.  Utz Che’ helps these groups navigate the complex Guatemalan laws that govern property and natural resource rights, and advocates in the legal realm for communities to retain management and ownership of their land and resources.

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At a clean cookstove demonstration hosted by Utz Che’, local women test cookstove models that they will eventually use in their own homes.

TWP adds to the portfolio of Utz Che’ services by helping to build community tree nurseries, supporting training opportunities for Utz Che’ field staff and community members, and raising funds for clean cookstove initiatives, such as this one.  This is our community-based philosophy in action – partnering with local organizations to access remote communities, in order to collaboratively achieve local conservation goals and improve quality of life.

TWP’s work does not happen without the support of our donors here in the US.  That said, I encourage you to help us deliver the best service possible by donating to this and other TWP programs using the button below.  Over the next six months we will be posting updates about our Guatemala clean cookstove initiative, so sign up for our eNewsletter to watch our progress!

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Trees, Water & People’s 2015 Impact Report

Thank you to our generous friends and donors who helped make 2015 a great year! Working closely with our local partners, community members, and volunteers, we were able to continue important conservation work throughout Central America, Haiti, and on tribal lands in the United States that benefit people and the planet.

2015 impact report

To learn more about Trees, Water & People’s community-based conservation projects please visit www.treeswaterpeople.org. Cheers to a productive and green 2016!

Notes from the Field: La Finca Humana

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by Lucas Wolf, Assistant International Director

In rural Honduras, two consecutive years of agricultural hardship have driven vulnerable rural communities to the brink of insolvency. As crop yields and income drop due to volatile weather patterns and a coffee disease that wiped out half of Central America’s 2014 harvest, proponents of conventional agriculture prescribe more chemical inputs, genetically modified seeds, and machinery. None of the above are feasible or sustainable options for poor rural families who can scarcely feed their families.

This year, the rains that irrigate corn and beans have been delayed again, and news reports claim that millions are in danger of food shortages – the time is now to shift the agricultural paradigm.

Trees, Water & People and our partners propose a different path forward: agroforestry, crop diversification, soil remediation, and farmer-to-farmer education. Working with Centro Educativo de Agricultura Sostenible (CEASO), we will support the following work in 2016 and 2017:

  • Agroforestry training curriculum comprised of seven modules to 200 farmers in 10 communities in the Department of Comayagua, Honduras, over a two year period. Coursework will be offered at community centers and at participants’ farms.
  • Between modules, each group will visit local farms that have implemented the Finca Humana approach, including CEASO’s demonstration center and campus, to observe mature agroforestry systems and test several appropriate rural technologies.
  • Establish tree nurseries in each of the 10 communities, where tree species (avocado, mango, citrus, guanábana, bananas, papaya, fuel trees, and native hardwoods) will be raised for integration into the agricultural landscapes of the trainees.

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CEASO refers to their holistic development approach as La Finca Humana, roughly translated as “The Human Estate.” This approach puts family at the center of a successful farm and helps build resilience in every aspect of a rural family’s life, including food production, agroforestry (integrating trees into agricultural systems), waste management, pest management, water storage, soil quality, animal husbandry, energy use, agricultural economics, and gender equity.

In a region that is extremely vulnerable to climate change, La Finca Humana gives farmers and their families the tools and knowledge needed to adapt to a rapidly changing climate. Families should not only survive, but thrive. We hope you will join us in supporting the important work of CEASO and the communities they support. To learn more please contact Sebastian Africano, TWP’s International Director, at sebastian@treeswaterpeople.org.

Double Your Impact – Holiday Matching Grant Available!

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From the Trees, Water & People team: We wish you a healthy and happy holiday season! We are so thankful that you are part of our community. TWP’s programs protect the environment while improving livelihoods, a true win-win for people and the planet. This work would not be possible without the continued support of our friends and donors.

Thanks to a few very generous TWP supporters, we have a $25,000 matching grant available! When you make a donation today, it will be matched dollar for dollar.

We have big plans for the New Year and we hope you will consider a donation to our innovative, community-based programs that support conservation from the ground up. Don’t delay – every donation will be matched while funds last!

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Community Voices: Teresa de Jesús Salgado Luna

 

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Doña Teresa stands with her new Megaecofogón cookstove at her home in Jinotega, Nicaragua. The stove is produced by TWP’s partner, Proleña.

by Lucas Wolf, Assistant International Director

Doña Teresa´s eyes lit up as she approached the Proleña booth during an alternative energy and technology fair in Jinotega, northern Nicaragua, this past Thursday. As she circled around the Megaecofogón cookstove there was a noticeable spring in her step. We soon realized that she was pegged as the main recipient of a stove and install during our Jinotega visit. Juan, the stove technician and I drove the truck over to her house, just a few quick blocks from the gas station where the fair continued in our absence.

There were some doubts about how to fit the stove down a narrow and dark hallway that led into the kitchen area, but after several attempts and adjustments, we popped the stove through. The megaecofogón is quite mega, weighing in at about 150 pounds when full of pumice, as this one was.

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The rest of the install went on without issues and you could immediately grasp how urgent the need for the new cookstove is for Teresa. She is the primary breadwinner for her family of four adults and three grandchildren. She´s a single mother who has already put two kids through school using proceeds from her burgeoning tortilla business.

The kitchen area was black as can be, with stained walls and smoke filtering in and out of the kitchen area in a sweltering, choking swirl. Deep black stains lined the walls and soot fell by the inches as we cleaned off the ceiling area where we would eventually perforate the roof for the chimney ducts. Her previous stove was 40% the size of the megaecofogón. The pumice level had melted and the chimney had been rusted away for over a year.

2015-12-10 (2)As Doña Teresa elegantly stated, ¨This is dirty, difficult, and tough work. No one likes this job and no one wants to do it, but I´ve been able to make a living and create a better life for my children and their children through this labor and the growth of my small business. With the improved stove, I´ll be able to expand from about 600 tortillas per day up to 1,000 per day and maybe more. I also know how important this stove is for my health and the health of my family. We will be better off without all the smoke and soot in the kitchen area.”

She beamed with pride as she laid out some of her current clients and their requests about the possibility of increased production. Like any good businesswoman, Teresa has her current clients identified and happy, but she is looking to increase her supply now that demand has been established and growing.

The future is bright for Doña Teresa and her family thanks to the stove provided by Proleña, in collaboration with Casa Pellas foundation and INTUR, the Nicaraguan Tourism Institute. The next time I´m in Jinotega, I will be stopping by Doña Teresa´s house for some fresh tortillas, coffee and cuajada. I look forward to seeing her smiling face and bright eyes again.

Support People & the Planet on #GivingTuesday!

#GivingTuesday

Happy #GivingTuesday! Today, the world is celebrating the millions of nonprofits and NGOs working tirelessly to create a better future for all. We hope you will take a moment to make a gift to one of our community-based conservation programs that improve people’s livelihoods while conserving the environment.

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.

Celebrate #GivingTuesday by making a contribution today!

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Infographic: Why Clean Cookstoves?

Since 1998, Trees, Water & People has been working with our partners and local community members to design clean cookstoves that greatly reduce deadly indoor air pollution, deforestation, and high fuel costs. These cookstoves are designed according to specific cooking needs and cultural context, which is why they can look very different from country to country. However, all of these stoves have one important thing in common: they make cooking much safer for women and their families.

Clean Cookstoves

To learn more about Trees, Water & People’s Clean Cookstove Program please click here.

TWP Sponsoring Americas Latino Eco Festival, Oct. 15-17

Americas Latino Eco Festival

Trees, Water & People is excited to be a sponsor of the 3rd annual Americas Latino Eco Festival (ALEF), October 15-17 in Denver, Colorado, the largest multicultural environmental event of its kind leveraging Latino leadership for conservation gains.

ALEF establishes a home for advocates and leaders from the leading organizations with Latino constituencies and environmental mandates. ALEF advocates for an integrated local and national conservation agenda committed to advancing Latinos’ connections with nature and experience of the outdoors that in turn may inspire future stewardship of our natural resources. ALEF 2015 will launch an authoritative climate training program as well as call for actions on climate stewardship, land conservation, and the transition to renewable energies.

“This year’s festival, our third, is more ambitious and urgent than ever,” said Irene Vilar, founder of the festival. “We are turning the largest annual multicultural event of its kind into a powerful platform for advocacy on climate action and of course showcasing the arts as a most impactful vehicle for raising environmental awareness.  With the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan in the implementation stage at the state level, and the upcoming climate talks in Paris this November, failure is not an option. If we hope to change the direction on climate change, advocates must come together!”

The festival involves over 400 presenters and advocates and an estimated audience of over 5,000 people during three days of presentations, workshops and celebrations at three venues in downtown Denver: Metro State University, Denver Art Museum and Denver Public Library.

On the morning of October 17, from 8:30-10:00am, TWP and Amazon Aid will co-host ALEF’s Breakfast with Bianca Jagger, to hear insights and perspectives that motivated ALEF to award the 2015 Nuestra Madre Award to this extraordinary activist for human rights and environmental justice.

Many of the ALEF events are FREE and open to the public. For more information please visit: www.americaslatinoecofestival.org

Americas Latino Eco Festival

Lessons from Cuba: Finding Solutions to a Climate Crisis

Havana Cuba

by Sebastian Africano, International Director

Of all the memorable encounters during my ten days in Havana, Cuba for the 10th Convention on Sustainable Development and Environment in July, there is one that stood out most. A man stopped me between sessions and said he’d overheard I was from the U.S., and asked if I could help him identify someone from our delegation. Happy to help, I asked who he was looking for, and he said, “Sebastian Africano.” I almost fell backwards when he told me that he was from Guantánamo province (where my wife worked years ago), and that he was told to look for me by some of her former colleagues.

This man was Alexander Fernández, who works for the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment (CITMA), and is also a member of the Cuban Association of Agriculture and Forestry Technicians (ACTAF). His specialties are in Sustainable Soils Management and Conservation Agriculture, and he is based in one of the driest regions of Cuba. Meeting him opened the door to a crucial network of people working on climate adaptation strategies for rural populations in Cuba, and led to a flurry of private meetings after the conference.

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Cubans have much to teach, having lived through the forced austerity of “The Special Period” that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union. During that time, Cuban people survived through solidarity and ingenuity, devising ways to produce their own food without the benefit of petrochemical and technological inputs. The lessons learned during these challenging times make Cuba a staunch ally in facing the challenge of climate change.

After an anemic 2014 harvest, several countries in Central America have reported net losses of staple crops in 2015 at over 60% due to drought, creating conditions of scarcity never before seen. Many of the approaches to agriculture and natural resource management that Alexander and his teams have been forced to adopt in Cuba hold pertinent lessons for those struggling in Central America.

This is where TWP’s model of leveraging local knowledge, building regional networks, and allocating resources to build rural resilience come into play. Over the next year, we seek to strengthen our bonds with Cuba, through educational exchanges involving our partners and donors, as well as by helping to fund local projects. Challenges as daunting as climate change require that we put our heads and resources together to find replicable and impactful solutions.