Corporate Partner Spotlight: Houska Automotive

dona dora clean cookstove
The Doña Dora clean cookstove reduces household air pollution and fuelwood costs for Guatemalan families.

by Megan Maiolo-Heath, Marketing Manager

Houska Automotive, a long-time donor and friend to Trees, Water & People (TWP), is supporting one of our new cookstove projects that will bring hundreds of families in Guatemala cleaner burning stoves. The grant will go towards the building and installation of 500 clean cookstoves in the homes of families living in the municipalities of Camotán and Jutiapa, Guatemala.

The project will give local people knowledge and skills of clean cookstove technology, installation, use, and maintenance. Families will benefit from reduced firewood consumption and improved respiratory health. In addition, there will be a reduction in local deforestation and carbon emissions, which will help mitigate global climate change.

Guatemala fuelwood

The Problem

In Guatemala, deforestation is a serious issue. Cutting down forests for firewood is a principal culprit, with an annual demand of 15.8 million tons. Sources show that between 47% and 49% of the energy consumed in Guatemala comes from firewood; 70% of the country’s 15 million people rely on wood for their everyday cooking needs.

Excessive firewood use also has adverse impacts on health, especially for women and young children. Research shows that women and children spend the most time in the kitchen, inhaling the toxic smoke emitted at a much higher rate than the rest of the population. In fact, it has been compared to smoking three packs of cigarettes every day.

“The bottom line is that cooking in Guatemala is killing far too many people and destroying the natural environment at an alarming rate,” said Sebastian Africano, Trees, Water & People’s International Director. “Each improved cookstove installed will have a measurable and positive impact on the family that it serves, as well as on our global environment. We are thankful for the support of businesses like Houska who give back to our local community as well as communities in Guatemala who need our help.”

A Positive Impact for People and the Planet

TWP will implement this ambitious cookstove project with Guatemalan NGO, Utz Che’, a local umbrella organization that helps 36 small grassroots groups (mostly indigenous) organize and plan community development projects. Cookstoves with increased fuel-efficiency improve human health and family livelihoods, while protecting the environment.

Compared to traditional open cooking fires, our clean cookstove models use 40-50% less firewood. Less time spent collecting daily firewood means more time for other important activities necessary to support the family and invest in the future, such as education or home businesses. By removing up to 80% of the toxic smoke from the kitchen, this clean technology significantly reduces indoor air pollution which is responsible for four million deaths globally every year. Also, each cookstove decreases hazardous carbon emissions by an average of 68%, helping to combat climate change.

Thank you Houska Automotive for your continued generosity and support! To learn more about the many organizations that Houska supports please visit www.houskaautomotive.com/community-support

Houska Automotive logo

Happy International Women’s Day!

IWD2015_TWP

Today, the TWP staff and people all around the world will come together to celebrate International Women’s DayMake It Happen is the 2015 theme, encouraging effective action for advancing and recognizing women. We hope you will join us in supporting our community-based development projects that advance the rights of women in Central America, Haiti, and on tribal lands of the U.S.

Our conservation projects go beyond protecting the environment. We strive to improve the livelihoods and health of every family we work with, especially the women and children who are most affected by energy poverty and deadly indoor air pollution.

Today, make sure to take a moment to hug the important women in your life and let them know how much they mean to you!

Learn more about TWP’s projects and how they help mothers and children at www.treeswaterpeople.org.

Community-Based Development in Action: Reforestation in El Salvador

tree nursery El Salvador
Don Jorge Ochoa has worked at the El Porvenir nursery since 2007, helping to grow nearly 630,000 trees.

community_based_developmentTrees, Water & People’s 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.

Our Reforestation Program in El Salvador is a great example of this Community-Based Development Model in action:

identify_community_needsEl Salvador is the second most deforested country in Latin America after Haiti. Nearly 85 percent of its forest cover has disappeared since the 1960s. Less than 6,000 hectares are classified as primary forest. Deforestation in El Salvador has had serious environmental, social, and economic impacts. Today over 50 percent of El Salvador is not even suitable for food cultivation, and much of the country is plagued with severe soil erosion (Mongabay, 2015).

partner_with_local_organizations In 2001, we formed a partnership with environmental conservation leaders in El Salvador, who created Arboles y Agua para El Pueblo (AAP) to address natural resource issues within the country. The organization is led by Armando Hernandez and his dedicated staff who work tirelessly to protect the precious natural resources of El Salvador.

El Salvador tree nursery
Members of the AAP staff at our 30,000-tree nursery in El Porvenir.

design_and_implement_projects (1)The AAP staff addresses El Salvador’s natural resource issues through reforestation, producing over 28 hardwood and fruit tree species in their nurseries. Local community members, governments, and farmers use these trees for food, firewood, and shade. In addition, AAP and TWP work together to build clean cookstoves that reduce deforestation and deadly household air pollution. Community-led conservation projects create jobs for local people as well purpose and meaning in life. Don Jorge Alberto Dorado Ochoa, an AAP staff member since 2007, found his work at the tree nursery to be healing during his battle with cancer. “I feel strongly that my dedication to the nursery and the work of TWP gave me strength and health.”

evaluate_and_monitor_projectsAAP reports to TWP on a monthly basis to ensure projects are running smoothly and efficiently. Our International Program staff visit the projects several times a year to monitor progress. At the end of each year, we work together to evaluate successes, challenges, and plan for future needs.

To learn more about Trees, Water & People please visit www.treeswaterpeople.org. Our grassroots conservation efforts depend on friends and donors investing in our work. We hope you will join our community today!

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.

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.

Sebastian Africano clean cookstove
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.

Notes from the Field: Sharing Knowledge for Climate Adaption in Nicaragua

by Sebastian Africano, International Director

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Members of CADPI gain hands-on experience building clean cookstoves.

Our partners at Proleña in Nicaragua were proud to receive a delegation from the Center for the Autonomy and Development of Indigenous People (CADPI) at their headquarters and demonstration site in Managua last week. CADPI is a social organization dedicated to the investigation and study of themes related to indigenous peoples of Nicaragua, Central America, and the Caribbean.

CADPI sent a delegation of three men and six women from the Autonomous Region of the North Atlantic, or RAAN as it’s known in Nicaragua, to investigate improved cookstove options for their remote region, which is experiencing rapid deforestation at the hand of cattle ranchers and other interests.

At Proleña, the group tested a variety of cookstoves, but decided that the most appropriate was the Emelda cookstove. This stove was designed in partnership with Proleña to better meet the needs of the most rural communities. After seeing the stove in action, the team received a step-by-step photo presentation on cookstove design, construction, use and maintenance, then built their own model under Proleña’s guidance.

These are the types of workshops we look forward to hosting on a larger scale at Proleña and TWP’s National Center for Biomass Energy and Climate Change, which is currently under construction in nearby La Paz Centro, Nicaragua. Teaching motivated groups techniques and technologies to both mitigate and adapt to climate change leads to local capacity and leadership in the struggle for sustainable resource management.

Infographic: Clean Cookstoves Save Lives!

clean cookstoves infographic

Around the world, billions of people are still dependent on wood and other forms of biomass to cook every meal. Cooking with wood over an open fire causes a variety of environmental, economic, and human health problems.

Since 1998, we have 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.

To learn more and to support TWP’s Clean Cookstove Program  please visit our website!

Community Voices: Don Marcos

Guatemala civil war
Don Marcos defends his land and his people during the Guatemalan civil war.

by Sebastian Africano, International Director

“The hardest parts were the hunger…and the sleeplessness.” recounted Don Marcos, a septuagenarian survivor of the brutal civil wars in Guatemala that left over 200,000 (mostly indigenous campesinos) dead. Two spoonfuls of oats and a spoonful of sugar was all the food available for weeks at a time while protecting Mayan heritage and homeland from military persecution. Hundreds of thousands died, but many survived, only to face continued struggle to live a dignified life after “peace” was officially declared in Guatemala in 1996. Don Marcos tells us his story while holding his head in his hands under a photo taken of him in 1982, where he can be seen stoically gripping an automatic rifle with three other indigenous soldiers behind him, tasked with ensuring the survival of an ancient culture.

Today, Don Marcos is a community leader in El Tarral, one of the dozens of highland Mayan communities from Huehuetenango who have been displaced to southern coastal climates. His organization – the San Ildefonson Ixtahuacán Development Association – is one of the 36 indigenous groups under the umbrella of the Asociación de Forestería Comunitaria de Guatemala Ut’z Ché, Trees, Water & People’s partner in the country. We had the unique opportunity to build Don Marcos’ family a new cookstove as a training exercise for some younger members of his community – teaching a proven technology that reduces fuelwood use, improves family health and saves families money through its daily use.

It was a community effort to build Marco and Nati's new clean cookstove.
It was a community effort to build Marco and Nati’s new clean cookstove.

Ut’z Ché provides a voice to indigenous communities who seek to protect land and resource rights where they live – be it on ancestral lands or lands adopted post-displacement. As agro-forestry and forest conservation are two pillars in this process, clean cookstoves and solar lighting are a perfect compliment, improving sustainability, autonomy and health for communities that have been marginalized for centuries. As someone who has spent a decade working in rural Central America, I couldn’t be more inspired and energized to contribute, as the resilience and identity exhibited by Ut’z Che’s partners is extraordinary, and their will to thrive is as salient as their preserved languages, customs and traditions.

Don Marcos’ struggle is now for his children and grandchildren. While it’s miraculous that he’s here at all, he knows that he has little time left to leave a better future for his descendants. He was happy and proud to offer his house as a training ground for the group of young men in his community, who look to him as an elder and a teacher. His is the first of 60 cookstoves we plan to build in the community of El Tarral – projects made possible only by your donations and support. We thank you for helping us make life a little more hospitable for the millions of humble people that only seek the sustainable and dignified future they deserve.

Notes from the Field: Measuring the Health Impacts of Clean Cookstoves in Honduras

Honduras clean cookstove study

by Sebastian Africano, International Director

I first met Maggie Clark, an environmental epidemiologist at Colorado State University (CSU) , back in 2005 in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, when she came to test the health of women exposed to wood smoke from cooking over open fires. Since then, we have both worked continually on improving conditions in Central American kitchens via clean cookstoves designed and built by Trees, Water & People (TWP) and partners.

clean cookstove study
Meeting with community members is an important first step in initializing a new clean cookstove study.

Last week I had the great pleasure of joining forces with Dr. Maggie again in Honduras, as we launch an ambitious, comprehensive study to show the benefits of improved cookstoves on the health of rural women and their families in the mountainous western region of the country. While most studies of this kind are short term snapshots of the benefits that come from improving cookstove technology, this study proposes following over 400 women over three years as they transition from traditional open fire cooking to improved cookstoves.

Trees, Water & People began working with cookstoves in 1998 as an effort to reduce deforestation and carbon emissions, and together with Aprovecho Research Center designed a culturally appropriate cookstove that reduced firewood consumption in any given household by an average of 50%. What we later learned, is that the smoke that families (mostly women and children) are exposed to daily during cooking is responsible for up to 4 million deaths a year globally, and leads to chronic lifelong health complications for millions more.

We are certain that improved cookstoves improve conditions in households where firewood is used to cook daily. What CSU and TWP seek to show, however, is that many factors play into a family’s decision to adopt, fully utilize and benefit from a cookstove over time, and that the presence or absence of certain factors influence the degree to which health improves. By using data generated by this study to optimize what technologies we introduce and how we implement them, we seek to improve the impacts of our work and inform the work of the countless other organizations working to improve life in firewood-dependent communities.

It’s an honor to be working with my friend Dr. Maggie Clark and CSU on such a groundbreaking study, and its great to see the dedication and resilience of the cookstove community as we work to improve living conditions in some of the most challenging environments in the world.