The Gift of Pride: 500 Stoves for Guatemala Complete!

by Gemara Gifford, International Director

As the holiday season begins in the United States, many of us gather with family to cook our favorite meals, celebrate with friends, to reflect back on the past year, and to make plans for the next. If we’re lucky, the holiday season creates a sense of comfort, community, and pride.

As TWP looks back on our year, one of our proudest moments has been working with you – our community – to help 500 more families in southern Guatemala begin their new year with a brand new clean cookstove. Last week, the final installment of stoves were delivered, and families are now being trained on its care and maintenance, just in time for the holidays! In March, some of you will be joining TWP Tours on our next tour to the region to see first-hand how families have been impacted by their new stove.

Clean Cookstove training in Guatemala
The final training and installment of stoves was completed last week, meaning 500 more families in Guatemala are starting their New Year with a new stove!

If you’ve been following us for a while, you know that clean cookstoves have a lasting impact on people’s lives because they:

  • reduce dangerous indoor air pollution by up to 85%
  • reduce forest fuelwood needed by up to 50%
  • are more efficient and thus save families valuable time and money

But perhaps the most inspiring and transformative impact of a stove is not in the numbers, but rather, within oneself. By listening to women across Central America for the last 19 years, we know that stoves:

  • increase women’s self-esteem and self-worth
  • create hope, pride, and dignity
  • help people thrive, not just survive
  • foster the ability to think “beyond tomorrow”

When I met Doña Teresa earlier this summer, she was thrilled to cook me something yummy on her new stove. She was proud to tell me how her day-to-day activities had been transformed. “My clothes look so much nicer now,” she said. “I don’t have soot all over them, and I am not embarrassed to invite my friends over anymore.”  The best part was her smile. There are certain things that we simply cannot communicate with statistics – the pride in her face told me everything I needed to know. “And by the way, I don’t have to spend so much time cooking, this thing stays on all day, and the wood that I need is much less,” she said.

Doña Teresa with her cookstove in Guatemala
Sometimes transformation begins with a stove. Doña Teresa tells us what her new stove represented to her above.

I am excited to visit Doña Teresa again on my next trip in January to see how she doing, and thank her for teaching me such a valuable lesson about what a stove represented to her!

At Trees, Water & People, we believe that everyone plays a role in making the world more sustainable and humane. Our donors provide the means, we provide the network and know-how, our local partners deliver the solution, and each beneficiary provides local materials and labor. Together we drive change and create dignified, healthy futures for our global community.

So thank you, to each and every one of you, who have helped us tell this remarkable story. I couldn’t feel more ready for 2018 to help people make transformative changes in their own lives.

Sometimes that story begins with a stove.

If you are interested in traveling with us or learning more about our programs, please sign up for our email list.

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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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Spots Still Available on the 2011 EcoTour!

Join us for the 2011 EcoTour to Guatemala; the adventure of a lifetime!  Experience our international community development programs through an exciting hands-on adventure in beautiful Central America.

“It was not until my hands-on experience that I truly came to appreciate the far-reaching effect my contributions had in assisting this wonderful organization to pursue their mission … I was able to observe the needs of the Nicaraguan and Honduran people first hand and to experience the sense of hope a new stove brought to the women and children.”
-Tim Holzheimer, EcoTour Participant

The 2011 EcoTour will visit both cultural sites as well as Trees, Water & People’s project sites, where you will have the opportunity to plant trees and build fuel-efficient cookstoves with members of the communities we serve.

Don’t miss this opportunity to experience Guatemala and all the rich culture it has to offer!  For more information on how you can sign-up please call Claudia at (970) 484-3678 or email claudia@treeswaterpeople.org.

EcoTour 2009 participants help build a fuel-efficient Justa stove for a family in Guatemala. (Photo by Don Usner)

Partnership for Clean Indoor Air Interviews TWP

The Partnership for Clean Indoor Air (PCIA) just published their monthly newsletter, with a full-length interview on page 7 from TWP’s Deputy International Director, Sebastian Africano, about our fuel-efficient stove program.  Enjoy!

TWP Celebrates 10th Birthday on Earth Day

For the last 10 years, every day has been Earth Day for one organization in Fort Collins. So fittingly on April 22nd, Trees, Water & People will celebrate its 10th birthday on the same day as the global environmental observance known as Earth Day.

Co-founders Stuart Conway and Richard Fox began Trees, Water & People (TWP) with the mission to improve people’s lives by helping them to conserve, protect, and manage the natural resources upon which their long term well-being depends. Together with the help of a dedicated staff and Board of Directors, Conway and Fox have delivered impressive results with no sign of slowing down anytime soon.

Internationally, TWP has built 25,000 fuel-efficient cook stoves throughout Central America and Haiti, preventing more than 175,000 tons of carbon dioxide from being released into our atmosphere. Compared to traditional open fire stoves, the improved stove uses 70% less wood, vents 90% of the toxic smoke out of the home, and reduces carbon emissions by a minimum of 1 metric ton per year. In 2005, TWP’s fuel-efficient stove project won the prestigious Ashden Award for Sustainable Energy presented in London by HRH Prince Charles. Other work in Central America includes the planting of more than 2 million trees and the creation of 7 tree nurseries to aid in reforestation efforts.

Work with Native American families on Tribal lands has also been a focus of TWP. They have installed more than 200 efficient solar heating systems on the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Reservations in South Dakota as part of their Tribal Lands Program. The solar heaters warm homes during frigid winter months while reducing energy bills by 20-30% for 2-3 decades. In 2007, TWP helped establish Lakota Solar Enterprises; one of the first and only 100% Native American owned and operated renewable energy businesses. In addition, TWP has conducted nearly 30 renewable energy workshops and demonstration installations on 10 reservations across the Great Plains.

On the regional level, TWP provides training and organizational support for watershed protection groups. With a focus on leadership development and fundraising, they offer workshops, individual training, staff evaluations, capacity building, and outreach assistance to the grassroots organizations working to preserve the quality and quantity of the water in the arid West.

This spring, TWP’s local Clean Energy Program will unveil its new SunMobile. This innovative traveling education tool will travel to Northern Colorado schools and community events educating students and residents about clean, renewable energy. The Clean Energy Program is also busy helping to install a 10kW photovoltaic system on the new Bethke Elementary as part of our “Renewables on Schools” initiative. This unit will provide about 10% of the building’s power during the school year and all of it during the summer months.

Over the past 10 years, Trees, Water & People has accomplished great things and looks forward to continuing their commitment to living every day like it’s Earth Day

Here are some numbers from the last ten years:

2,000,000 trees planted
+175,000 tons of carbon offset by fuel-efficient stoves
+115,000 people with reduced indoor air pollution
+25,000 fuel-efficient stoves built
+850 natural wind-breaks & shade trees planted
+202 watershed protection groups assisted
+200 solar heating systems installed
+175 local tree plantings organized
+97 watershed protection trainings hosted
+28 renewable energy workshops hosted
+10 tribal lands with renewable energy applications installed
+8 successful annual fundraising events
+7 international tree nurseries established
+3 outdoor science classrooms created with the City of Fort Collins
+1 SunMobile – traveling energy education for Northern Colorado

= One Organization Working For A Sustainable Future