Community Voices: Carlos Humberto Gonzalez

by Megan Maiolo-Heath, Marketing Manager

Carlos Humberto Gonzalez

Working with local farmers throughout Central America is an important part of grassroots natural resource conservation programs. These dedicated and hardworking individuals know the local land, watersheds, biodiversity, and soils better than anyone and they are dependent on a healthy environment for their livelihoods.

Carlos Humberto Gonzalez is one of these farmers that left a lasting impression on me and my colleagues. Carlos was born and raised on his family’s small farm, located on a hill overlooking the rural town of El Porvenir, El Salvador. Now that his mother and father have passed on, the responsibilities of running the farm are all his. He grows a variety of crops, including tomatoes, eggplant, citrus trees, corn, and coffee and depends on the land for his survival.

drip irrigationAs we toured his property, he showed us how he had created an innovative drip irrigation system for his crops using plastic soda bottles and gravity. This system saves precious water, which at the time was hard to come by due to severe drought conditions.

Through our partnership with Arboles y Agua para El Pueblo, we were able to add a touch of chocolate or cacao (Theobroma cacao) to his plot of coffee, helping to improve the soil quality and increase the biodiversity of his land. These 50 trees will also produce a high-quality product that he can sell at the local market, helping to support his family and business.

“My father would be proud of what I have accomplished with our farm and my family will be happy that I can sell more products at market. I am very happy to have these new trees.”

As we looked out over the beautiful countryside, and Carlos pointed out various landmarks in the distance, I could sense how dedicated he was to his land and his country. To support reforestation efforts in El Salvador is an honor and we look forward to supporting many more farmers in the future.

To learn more about our work in El Salvador please visit our wesbite.

The Justa Cookstove: Community-Based Development in Action


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. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO), estimates that 4 million people die each year from illnesses caused by indoor air pollution.

So, what does our community-based model look like in action?

The Justa Cookstove: An Example of Community-Based Development in Action

Doña Justa clean cookstove Honduras

identify_community_needsIn Honduras, like many developing countries around the world, cooking is done over an inefficient, open fire inside the home. Breathing the toxic smoke can lead to acute respiratory illness, pneumonia, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, among other health problems. Women and children are most seriously affected, as they are the family members who spend the most time in the kitchen.

In addition, the inefficiencies of an open fire result in large amounts of wood from local forests being consumed to provide fuel for cooking. In Honduras, deforestation rates are rising yearly, contributing to global climate change.

partner_with_local_organizationsAfter Hurricane Mitch ravaged Honduras in 1998, Trees, Water & People and the Asociación Hondureña para el Desarrollo (AHDESA) teamed up with the Aprovecho Research Center and Rotary International to work with a women’s group in the town of Suyapa to adapt fuel-efficient, clean cookstove combustion principles to traditional cooking habits.

design_and_implement_projects (1)The result was the Justa stove, named after community leader Doña Justa Nuñez (pictured above with staff from TWP). The Justa clean cookstove is made out of brick and mortar and is built directly into the home. Higher combustion rates and efficiency are achieved by the “Rocket Elbow”, an L-shaped combustion chamber that allows wood to burn up to 70% more efficiently. The body of the stove is insulated with wood ash or other locally available material and is topped with a removable metal cooking surface, or plancha. A built-in chimney vents harmful gases and particulates from the kitchen. Since the stove was designed, hundreds of people throughout Honduras have been trained on how to build and properly maintain this particular type of clean cookstove, helping to spread this life-changing technology well beyond our immediate reach.

evaluate_and_monitor_projectsOver our 16 year history, we have continued to bring clean Justa cookstoves to the people of Honduras, concentrating our efforts in the Guacerique Watershed outside of the capital city of Tegucigalpa. TWP staff and partners track and monitor the progress of these stoves, visiting beneficiary households and testing to ensure that stoves hold up to daily use over an extended period of time. Feedback about the Justa cookstove has led to multiple iterations of this model, making it one of the most popular cookstove designs in the region.

To learn more about all of our clean cookstove designs, please visit our website.