Celebrating 20 Years in 2018!

by Sebastian Africano, Executive Director

Happy 2018 from all of us at Trees, Water & People!

2018 is a significant year for many reasons, but the main one¬†is that it‚Äôs Trees, Water & People‚Äôs (TWP‚Äôs) 20th Anniversary! As the staff and I reflected on the significance of this achievement, we tried to think back to the challenges that our founders, Richard Fox and Stuart Conway, likely faced when they started this organization in 1998, in Fort Collins, Colorado…

Email and the internet were barely commonplace in 1998. They photographed their work in the field with film cameras and recorded activities with camcorders. Field reports were received by fax and cell phones were just beginning to show up on the scene. Building a following back then depended on the depth of your Rolodex, your versatility with direct mail, and your candor on a landline.

Richard Fox and Stuart Conway 1998
Trees, Water & People was founded in 1998 by Richard Fox (left) and Stuart Conway (right), two foresters who saw a huge need to address the pervasive deforestation in Latin America.

Our founders worked hard to build successful relationships in the field, as well as systems and processes at home that would lay the foundation for a lasting organization. When I began working for the organization in 2005, little did I know the impact that TWP would have on the world.

Apart from the tens of thousands of beneficiaries we’ve been fortunate to serve through our projects, we’ve also created a home for dozens of staff, hundreds of volunteers and interns, and thousands of donors that have made our work possible. A significant number of those donors have supported us since the very beginning, and have literally given us the means to reach this significant milestone.

Rafael Ramirez
Rafael Ramirez is transplanting tree seedlings in a small nursery in Guatemala. Photo by Jeff Caesar, 1998.

We have planted close to 7 million trees, installed over 75,000 cookstoves, and trained hundreds of rural people in everything from fruit tree-grafting, to soil conservation, to solar power and clean cookstove design. Any way you look at this story, it’s an understatement to say that it’s been an inspirational journey.

However, the world has changed drastically in very visible ways over the past 20 years, and there are forces at work today that threaten the work of nonprofits like ours.

Nine of every ten deportees from the U.S. today are going back to Central America and Mexico. Climate change is threatening small-holder agriculture in the region, and the cities are busting at the seams with migrants from rural areas, and now from abroad. U.S. investment in International Development and diplomacy has slowed to a trickle, while changes to the tax law are threatening donations from our individual supporters.

Do√Īa Justa with her stove
Do√Īa Justa making breakfast with her new fuel-efficient stove in Honduras. Photo by Jeff Caesar, 1998.

The challenges we face today are going to be very different from those faced by our founders in 1998, and are going to require that we be flexible and adaptable in how we approach our work. Your support is instrumental in our success and will be the cornerstone of what we build over the next 20 years.

For this reason, this year we‚Äôd like to celebrate YOU ‚Äď our donors ‚Äď who have been the lifeblood of this organization since we were founded. Over the next several months we‚Äôre going to feature 20 of our most ardent supporters, in hopes that they inspire you to share TWP‚Äôs work with your friends, family, and peers, and show them why you donate to this work.

The gains we‚Äôve made for people and planet will only remain as such if we are vigilant and persistent in defending them ‚Äď and we can‚Äôt do this alone. So THANK YOU ‚Äď here‚Äôs to 20 more years of TWP, and to all the worth-while things we‚Äôre going to accomplish together!

If you would like to celebrate our 20th anniversary with us and be in the loop about Trees, Water & People’s work, please sign up for our email list.

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Protected Area Management in El Salvador

by Sebastian Africano, Executive Director 

Before moving to Fort Collins, CO in 2009, my wife and I settled in western El Salvador, a natural wonderland dotted with volcanoes, teeming with biodiversity, and a 40-minute drive from cool misty peaks to sweltering coastlines. Trees, Water & People (TWP) had worked there since 2001, through a small partner called √Ārboles y Agua para el Pueblo (AAP) building cookstoves, composting latrines, and maintaining the most beautiful tree nursery among all their programs.

Unfortunately, the country went through a particularly rough spell between 2010 ‚Äď 2016, where political turmoil left a vacuum filled by some unsavory elements in society and significantly affected our ability to operate. Nevertheless, AAP adjusted to the new reality and began looking for new ways to improve their country from within.

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Thanks to the FIAES fund from the U.S. and El Salvadorian governments, √Ārboles y Agua para el Pueblo was named co-manager of the¬†Reserva¬†de la Biosfera Apaneca-Ilamatepec.¬†

Leveraging a strong reputation, AAP was able to gain access to a bilateral reconciliation fund in 2013, which was put in place by El Salvador and the U.S. to strengthen public spaces, including National Parks. They were named co-managers of a small National Park in the west of the country and began working with communities along the outskirts of this park, developing Ecotourism capacity and providing environmental education through local school systems.

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√Ārboles y Agua para el Pueblo¬†provides environmental education opportunities for local schools around the National Park, including tree planting!

Four years later, the small, dedicated team at AAP is now the head of a consortium of non-governmental organizations tasked with co-managing a network of parks throughout the west of the country. Their work focuses on improving everything from trails to interpretive signage, to biodiversity conservation, and alternative economic opportunities for youth. The road is long, but as El Salvador emerges from another dark patch of history, there is optimism on the horizon again, and TWP is proud to have continued supporting a positive future for the country.

If you would like to stay in the loop about Trees, Water & People’s work or how to get involved, please sign up for our email list.

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A Visit to Cloud Nine

by Jeff Hargis, Trees, Water & People Board Member

Cloud Nine Recycling

A road trip to Phoenix to pick up my son provided a great opportunity for me to stop in Tuba City, AZ and visit Tyler Tawahongva, a Hopi member of the Coyote Clan, and the winner of Trees, Water & People’s 2014 Green Business in Indian Country Start-Up Award.

It was a bright and mild December day on the Navajo Reservation, and I was fortunate to catch Tyler on a day when he was loading a rental truck with tons (literally!) of recyclable materials for his regular trip to buyers in Phoenix.  So I was able to get a close-up look at his Cloud Nine recycling operation.

The operation requires a lot of work:  card board to bundle, aluminum cans and plastic bottles to sort and bag, and all kinds of electronics and appliances to be mined for steel, aluminum, and especially copper wire, which can fetch over two dollars per pound.  Tyler is looking to hire additional help which would allow him to process more material.

There are also many variables that can influence the profitability of the recycling business.  As Tyler showed me around, he was continuously bringing up ideas and asking questions regarding improvements to his operation.  Purchasing a baler would allow Tyler to process more cardboard and transport more per load to Phoenix.  The purchase of a utility trailer would eliminate the cost of renting a truck for transporting the material, not to mention the 150 mile round trip from Tuba City to the truck rental operation in Flagstaff.  All of these ideas provide opportunity for a little more profit for Cloud Nine, and a lot less waste going to the local landfill.

Tyler was able to finish loading the 16’ yellow rental truck ahead of sunset for the trip to Phoenix the following morning.  I lent a hand with the loading as we talked about Cloud Nine Recycling. I learned a lot about the ins and outs of the business.  I was impressed by the energy Tyler puts into the effort, and the ideas he has for the future.  With the TWP Green Business Start-up Award, these dreams for improving and growing the business have become real possibilities for Tyler.

I encourage you to support Tyler through his GoFundMe campaign so he can continue the great work he is doing within his community!

Reflections on Helping to Start Native-Owned Green Businesses

Richard Fox with students
Richard Fox (right) works with some of TWP’s Native American Green Business Development students and trainers at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

by Richard Fox, Executive Director

As I sit here listening to our students at our Green Business Development Training, I am sure we have made the right decision.

For years, through our Tribal Renewable Energy Program, we have been providing Native Americans with a wide spectrum of small-scale/big-impact renewable energy and sustainable home building training.  We realized though that while technical skills training is important, it is not enough to get new Native owned businesses started.  That is why we created this Green Business Development Training, using the Indianpreneurship curriculum developed by ONABEN, as part of our new multi-tiered approach of providing Native American students with the practical knowledge, resources, and confidence needed to create their own businesses.

business trainee grads
Graduates from our most recent Green Business development Training

Beyond this training, we have also instituted a national Business Plan Competition that will provide the winner with up to $40,000 in start-up capital, as well as hands-on business training and assistance in things like using Quick Books, developing and implementing marketing materials and campaigns, and overall business fiscal management.  As part of this effort, we have initiated our Business Start-up Mentor Program, where business professionals provide assistance to Native Americans who are in the competition.  The winner of the business plan competition will have a mentor assigned to them who will work with them over the next year to get their business started and rolling along.

This way we know that at least one new Native American green business will start up every year and hopefully others will form as we continue to have more students go through our training program.

tribal programYes, this path is definitely the right decision.  It has not always been an easy one to implement, and we will surely be improving each component as we move forward and learn from our experiences.  But we are committed to bringing renewable energy and alternative building options to Native communities and helping them move towards energy independence as well as economic stability.

We think long-term at TWP and know our efforts will take time.  But we have been working with tribal communities for more than 12 years and have established a network of Native Green Teams across the Great Plains.  They will surely be our strength and core as we expand these efforts to the hundreds of other tribes looking for green jobs and a new approach to using energy and building sustainability on tribal lands.

To learn more please visit our website: www.treeswaterpeople.org

Development from the Ground Up

community tree planting central america

Our 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.

community based development

For over a decade, we have been working in partnership with national and international non-governmental organizations, community organizations, businesses, government entities, private foundations, local leaders, and community members. Our projects have been well-received in communities throughout Latin America and on Native American Reservations in the United States because we engage with local people and respect local culture.

Learn more! Click here to see an example of our community-based model in action.