500 More Clean Cookstoves in Guatemala

By Sebastian Africano, Executive Director

Since 2006, Utz Che’ has been a tireless advocate for over 40 indigenous Guatemalan communities committed to protecting and sustainably managing their forest resources. Utz Che’ acts as a loudspeaker for indigenous causes and concerns, which are otherwise easily dismissed from the public discourse and policy-making dialogues.

Trees, Water & People (TWP) was introduced to Utz Che’s leadership in 2010 and has worked with them to add fuel-efficient cookstove technology to their services to reduce pressure on the local forests from which fuelwood is harvested, as well as reduce indoor air pollution. After several years of prototyping designs with Utz Che’ communities and Guatemalan manufacturers, last year we embarked on the full-scale implementation of 500 clean cookstoves manufactured by two local enterprises — ECOCOMAL and Estufa Doña Dora. The project was so successful that this year we are raising funds to install 500 more in high-need communities.

Learning about the new Doña Dora stove
In 2016, this community in southern Guatemala received Doña Dora stoves and were all trained by Doña Dora employees on how to install, use, and maintain their new clean cookstoves.

The cookstove models selected for this project are partially pre-manufactured for consistency but are installed in a brick and mortar body constructed by trained community members. In 2016, this included 159 men and 371 women. Hands-on training in installation, use, and maintenance of the stoves increases local investment in the program through sweat equity and allows community members to become more intimate with the technology. Community engagement improves the local support network around the cookstoves.

New clean cookstove in Guatemala
This woman in southern Guatemala uses her clean cookstove that was built last year to make tortillas for her family.

Cooking is a very personal tradition in Central America, so new technologies must be able to cook the same foods, with the same fuels, in the same amount of time as the traditional designs if they are to be accepted by all members of society. Trees, Water & People’s years of expertise, coupled with a locally fine-tuned design, and the trust and rapport that Utz Che’ has with its member communities make for an extraordinarily effective, participatory, and meaningful partnership.

If you would like to help us build clean cookstoves in Guatemala, or would like to learn more about the importance of this project, click the button below.

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Notes from the Field: Reflections from Africa to Haiti

Notes from the Field by Sebastian Africano, TWP’s Deputy International Director:

April 21st, 2011: Port-au-Prince, Haiti


Sebastian Africano hanging out with a group of children in the Bugonia district of Uganda.

As we begin to wrap up our Spring 2011 site visits, we begin to reflect on all that has passed since we left Fort Collins several weeks ago.  My adventure began in Kenya in late February, where I spoke at the 2011 UNEP Sasakawa Prize Ceremony in celebration of this year’s laureates and the International Year of the Forest.  This was followed by a 2-week trip to Uganda, where along with Fort Collins based partners, Rodelle Vanilla, we launched what will become TWP’s first African stove program.  Soon after we found ourselves in Guatemala, traveling the country meeting with potential new partners in the country’s Altiplano, and then El Salvador, where we visited our partner Agua y Arboles para El Pueblo’s (AAP) new projects in communities surrounding an important protected area, Cerro El Aguila.  This trip was punctuated by visits to their spectacular tree nursery, which is teeming with 28 species that will be planted throughout the country this rainy season.  This journey will end 10 days from now in Haiti, where we are halfway into a visit with partners International Lifeline Fund (ILF) in Port-au-Prince, and working hard to get our urban stove commercialization project off the ground.

Sebastian Africano (R) and a local Haitian metal worker take a break from stove building.

Upon arrival to Haiti, and with the invaluable support of stove design consultant Brian Martin of Portland, Oregon, we headed into the field to check on stoves distributed 2 months ago, during Brian’s last visit.  We collected valuable feedback from about 20 families, which began a discussion around design modifications, improvements, and production strategies.  We then assembled a group of ten tin-smiths, some of which had worked with Brian and ILF in the past, who have now been contracted to cut and assemble 1,000 cookstoves in the next six weeks.  No small feat, by any measure, but cohesion amongst the team members has been quick to form, and all share ideas, help eachother with challenging pieces, and take time to laugh and joke with us as they work.

Haitian metal workers work on building the Zanmi Pye Bwa (“Friend of the Forest”) fuel-efficient cookstove.

This week has consisted of getting to know our resource and talent pool, bringing in tools, equipment and materials from all over Port-au-Prince to centralize production at ILF’s offices in the capital.  We introduced power tools to the stove production process, which is a break from the norm, but which has increased consistency and speed, allowing us to reach impressive volumes quickly.  The office is now filled with a cacophony of metal-on-metal pings, bangs and crashes, as hundreds of charcoal bowls and other parts roll off the production line.  Centralizing production without a factory site is challenging, but allows us to improve standardization of our product while offering these skilled metal workers a positive change of environment – getting them away from rough neighborhoods characterized by burning trash, dilapidated buildings, crowds and traffic.   All in all, these workers have embarked on what we hope will be an uplifting rise out of poverty, gaining access to steady and dignified employment in what we intend to develop into a significant charcoal stove manufacturing operation over the next year.

Keep your eyes and ears on the Zanmi Pye Bwa (Friend of the Forest) project as it develops, and support TWP by spreading the word as we raise funds to increase our production capacity and impact over the coming months!

*Many thanks to Brian Martin (Working Hands Productions) for the wonderful photos from Haiti.

Sunset over Port-au-Prince

TWP Partners with Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Colorado on Innovative Cookstove Project

Trees, Water & People (TWP) has partnered with the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Colorado (RPCVCO) on a first-of-its-kind undertaking by an RPCV group that connects a U.S.-based development NGO with serving Peace Corps Volunteers in El Salvador to provide local communities with the necessary training to produce inexpensive, clean, and efficient cookstoves.

“I learned more about the work that Colorado-based nonprofit Trees, Water and People (TWP) does — and thought the fact that it was founded by an RPCV and that they provided blueprints for how to build cookstoves seemed like a better fit for Peace Corps Volunteers,” says Arianne Burger (Kazakhstan 99-01), President of RPCVCO, “I also thought that it would be an amazing way for our group to celebrate Peace Corps’ 50th anniversary.”

Peace Corps Volunteers will work with TWP’s El Salvador partner organization Arboles y Agua para El Pueblo (AAP), who will conduct 3 regional training workshops on how to build fuel-efficient cookstoves in communities where Volunteers are currently serving.

Peace Corps volunteers in El Salvador receive training on how to build the fuel-efficient Justa stove.

Each Volunteer will then return to their respective local communities to organize their own trainings.  The budget of  $9,000 will pay for 3 regional workshops a year, with 45 total volunteers trained, and 60 local community leaders trained (105 total).  This budget amount will cover the cost of travel and accommodations for the training, as well as materials and supplies for each person to build a stove during the training.

To raise funds for the pilot project, RPCVCO will be selling screen prints designed by Idaho Stew + Ink Lounge.  Click here to purchase a poster and help support this innovative partnership (See poster below).

To learn more about the Peace Corps Clean Cookstove Project click here.

Update: 24 Cookstoves Built in 3 Days

A stove beneficiary in San Jose de Bocay stands next to her new fuel-efficient cookstove, built by Virginia Tech students, residents of Blacksburg, and TWP partner Proleña in early January 2011.

At the beginning of this month we did a post on the sister city relationship between Blacksburg, VA and San Jose de Bocay, Nicaragua (see post here).  Well, the trip was a great success!  Here is little update from trip leader and Blacksburg resident Jim Bier:

“We had a great week in San jose de Bocay.  The whole group was great, the arrangements worked well and we manged to build 24 stoves in 3 long days, and greatly strengthen our sister-city relationships in San Jose de Bocay.”

Thank you to the Virgina Tech students, residents of Blacksburg, and Proleña for all of your hard work!