Project Update: The Nicaraguan Center for Forests, Energy & Climate Takes Shape

Nicaraguan Center for Forests, Energy & Climate

by Sebastian Africano, International Director

 The Nicaraguan Center for Forests, Energy & Climate (NICFEC) is well on its way to becoming a reality. Over the past month, Trees, Water & People (TWP) and our partner, Proleña, have made considerable progress with a Nicaraguan architect, creating the master plan for the center. The plan will be finished and transferred to blueprints by the end of June 2015, at which point we will be ready to break ground. Once we begin building, we’d like to maintain the momentum to have the site operational and receiving guests by mid-2016.

Your donations will help make this a reality!

Once the dorms, classrooms, and workshops are constructed, we will begin the process of sizing and designing solar energy systems to power the site. We have a number of colleagues in the solar industry around the world who are committed to helping us with this challenge, and we are even considering designing a course around the installation. Also, as construction advances, planting of our various agroforestry plots will begin, demonstrating different combinations of crops and productive trees that can increase resilience on a rural farm.

Nicaraguan Center for Forests, Energy and Climate
Meeting with partners are the site of the Nicaraguan Center for Forests, Energy & Climate near La Paz Centro.

 As climate change rears its ugly head in the tropics, families already living in extreme vulnerability will have to adapt their approaches to be able to survive in rural areas. This means changing the rate at which they consume natural resources, and diversifying their crops and planting schedules to withstand volatile weather patterns. TWP’s NICFEC will be a resource for these farmers and their communities, providing them with a suite of technologies, proven methods, tree seedlings, and curriculum that will support them in this transition.

Thank you for supporting this effort – we look forward to keeping you informed as the Center takes shape and gets closer to opening its doors!

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Building the Nicaraguan Center for Forests, Energy & Climate

Nicaraguan Center for Forests, Energy & Climate

Climate change affects us all. Around the world, communities are already suffering from its drastic local impacts, such as increased natural disasters, destructive weather patterns, and reduced crop yields. It’s time to take action.

Trees, Water & People is working with our long-time partner in Nicaragua, Proleña, to establish the Nicaraguan Center for Forests, Energy, & Climate near La Paz Centro, about an hour northwest of Managua.

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Proleña and TWP are working together to develop the Nicaraguan Center for Forests, Energy & Climate.

Working with our dedicated partner organization Proleña, we have already grown more than 3.7 million trees in Nicaragua. The new Center will not only grow and plant more seedlings, we will also provide hands-on demonstration plots to show how local people can integrate growing trees and growing food crops together in the new era of a changing climate.

We will also use the Center to continue to build and distribute our clean cookstoves to reduce firewood use and deforestation. To date, we have built and distributed more than 64,000 fuel-efficient stoves that also eliminate the toxic smoke that causes millions of women and children to get sick or die every year.

The new Center is ultimately about resilience – learning how to survive and even thrive despite a harsh new climate reality. To do that, we must provide a place where educators and students come to teach, work, and learn about the real impacts of climate change, what can be done about them, and how we can and will adapt.

2015 Nicaraguan Center for Forests, Energy & Climate timeline

For questions about the new Center please contact Sebastian Africano, International Director, at sebastian@treeswaterpeople.org.

From the Board: Building the National Center for Biomass Energy and Climate Change

by Jon Becker, TWP Board Member

Nicaragua clean cookstove factory
TWP Executive Director Richard Fox at Proleña’s cookstove factory in Managua.

It’s Wednesday in Managua, which puts me in the middle of my 10 day Central American journey. Here in Nicaragua, Trees, Water & People’s Executive Director Richard Fox and I are completing a series of meetings with our long time partner, Proleña.  It is a very exciting time here – we are truly getting our hands dirty to launch one of our biggest projects in the region – the National Center for Biomass Energy and Climate Change.

NicaraguaSeveral years ago, with support from our donors as well as funds from the Rio Tinto Prize for Sustainability, we helped Proleña purchase a property in a rural area near the town of La Paz Centro, an hour northwest of Managua.  After years of planning, fundraising, and dreaming, we have finally started construction of the Center. Today I had the pleasure of walking the seven acre property with Proleña’s Director Marlyng Buitrago, Technical Director Leonardo Mayorga, Board member Juan Torres. We visited the two buildings that have already been constructed, chatted with our caretaker and his family who are living on the land, and imagined the day (soon!) when the views, including majestic Mt. Momotombo in the distance, would also feature the classrooms, dormitory, agroforestry demonstration areas, clean cookstove workshops, and more that will make up the Center.

A view of Momotombo from the National Center for Biomass Energy and Climate Change
A view of Momotombo as it rises near the shores of Lake Managua – a beautiful backdrop to the National Center for Biomass Energy and Climate Change.

The Center is a unique and critically important addition to the entire region’s capacity to restore and maintain forest health, expand the use of clean energy and appropriate technologies, and develop adaptation strategies to the already present impacts of climate change.  As such, it will embody a model worthy of replication as all of the world steps up to the challenge of climate change and the transition to renewable energy.

I was flashing back to similar feelings of excitement, concern, and hope that I felt just a few years ago walking the grounds of the mostly unfinished Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center in Pine Ridge, South Dakota.  I was remembering the flood of joy and satisfaction I reveled a little more than a year ago, when I was attended the grand opening of the Sacred Earth Lodge training center and dormitory at Pine Ridge. We did it before – we can do it again.  And I want to be there for La Fiesta!!

To learn more about the National Center for Biomass Energy and Climate Change in Nicaragua please visit our website.

The 2014 Year in Review

We are proud of all that we accomplished over the past 12 months with our local partners throughout Latin America and on tribal lands of the United States. Together, we are helping communities conserve their natural resources and create more sustainable livelihoods. Thank you for supporting our mission and programs. We look forward to a New Year with new possibilities!

year in review 2014

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.

Trees, Water & People 2013 Annual Report

The year 2013 was a powerful time for making new commitments, but also for completing some of our most needed and ambitious projects. It was a time when our nation was struggling still, but slowly improving from a period of fiscal instability.

We send a special heartfelt thank you to all of our donors and supporters that have provided their generous financial support, but also for the wisdom and advice that makes all of our projects possible!

Please click here to see our 2013 audited financial statements and 990s. For questions regarding our financials please email Diane Vella, Finance Director, at diane@treeswaterpeople.org or call 970-484-3678 ext. 22.

Helping Communities in Central America Adapt to a Changing Climate

National Center for Biomass Energy and Climate Change

by Megan Maiolo-Heath, Marketing Manager

For many years, we have been supporting conservation throughout Latin America, helping local people manage their most precious natural resources: trees, soils, and water. During this time, the communities we work with have experienced the negative effects of climate change first-hand, including hurricanes, droughts, flooding, and crop loss.

Here in the U.S. and other developed nations, we are beginning to see how a rapidly changing climate can hurt our environment, economies, and health. But, the poorest people in the world have been feeling the brunt of climate change for years.

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Local farmers and their families are feeling the effects of climate change first-hand.

We have been working with our partners in Central America to help communities face this challenge by continuing our efforts to plant millions of trees and build clean cookstoves for thousands of families. In addition, we have introduced clean energy products, such as solar lighting and solar cell phone chargers, so families can gain access to energy that does not lead to more pollution and environmental degradation.

But this is not enough. We must continue our work to educate people and share knowledge across borders. This is why TWP is developing the National Center for Biomass Energy and Climate Change in La Paz Centro, Nicaragua.

This new facility will be an educational resource where communities can learn about renewable energy, forest management, clean cookstoves, and clean energy solutions. In addition, we will develop the center as a global facility, where global citizens from around the world will be empowered with the skills needed to adapt to climate change in their region.

2014 Project Timeline:

National Center for Biomass Energy and Climate Change 2014

We have broken ground on the Center and constructed several buildings already. Now, we are moving onto the next phase of development: building classrooms, hands-on demonstration sites, and forestry plots that will make this a unique place for learning and sharing knowledge.

You can support this project by making a donation through our website: www.treeswaterpeople.org. Thank you for your support!

For questions about the new Center please contact Sebastian Africano, International Director, at sebastian@treeswaterpeople.org. Stay tuned for updates!

Community Voices: Noemi and Fani

by Lindsay Saperstone, International Communications Coordinator

clean cookstove users Nicaragua

Earlier this month, we traveled to Nicaragua to visit with Proleña, our long-time partners who have been developing clean cookstove technology for years. We were lucky enough to be served a tasty Central American meal cooked on one of these cookstoves: the Mega Ecofogón. Our generous cooks were two sisters – Noemi and Fani – who, for the past five years, have used one of Proleña’s clean cookstoves in their small restaurant that they operate out of their home. They served us pupusas (a traditional Salvadorian food), fresh tortillas, and beans. It was delicious!

Noemi cooks tortillas, a staple of the Nicaraguan diet, on a clean cookstove
Noemi cooks tortillas, a staple of the Nicaraguan diet, on a clean cookstove

Fani, the younger of the two sisters, says that she has loved using the stove in her house/business because it saves them a lot of money on firewood and also makes their kitchen beautiful.

In Nicaragua, the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, approximately 80% of the population still cooks each meal with fuelwood. In addition, 90% of the deforestation in the country is attributed to fuelwood consumption. Clean cookstoves like the Mega Ecofogón are helping to improve the environment by using far less wood while, at the same time, improving human health and saving small business owners like Noemi and Fani money.

According to Noemi, “We can put the stove anywhere we want in the house, the ceiling is no longer dark from the smoke and we don’t have conflicts with our neighbors about the smoke. In fact, now most of our neighbors have stoves too!” They also explained that the stove makes their restaurant more efficient because they can prepare a meal in about an hour and twenty minutes as opposed to the 2 hours it took before.

Working with women entrepreneurs to improve their environment, health, and livelihoods is one of the best parts of my job. I was truly inspired by Noemi and Fani and thankful that they shared their story with us.

Visit our website to learn more about our clean cookstove designs and consider supporting our clean cookstove program in Central America.

Noemi demonstrates how the Mega Ecofogón works
Noemi demonstrates how the Mega Ecofogón works during our visit to Nicaragua

Photo of the Week: Creating Jobs with Clean Cookstoves

Nicaragua cookstove factory

About this photo

TWP’s Clean Cookstove Program is unique because we build all of our stoves in-country, using locally sourced materials and creating much needed jobs. Our local staff are proud to be building products that will create healthier homes and a better environment for their country.

(Pictured: Staff from our clean cookstove factory in Nicaragua.)

Notes from the Field: Closing the Energy Poverty Gap in Latin America

by Sebastian Africano, International Director

This is the seventh year that I have had the pleasure of visiting the beautiful country of Nicaragua, a country that continues to inspire and amaze me with every visit.  The capital Managua, compared to years past, is booming – commerce is active, people are jovial, and the streets are lively.  The country enjoyed a growth rate of almost 5% last year, a level not seen for over 10 years, and it is visibly evident.  Add to that a level of safety more akin to its model southern neighbor Costa Rica, than its more similar northern neighbor Honduras (Nicaragua has 15% the homicide rate of Honduras), and you have a unique and promising set of conditions in a region characterized by high levels of poverty and violence and low indices of human development.

Nonetheless, there is still much work to be done in Nicaragua.  Much of the rural population is remote, and lives on the margins of society, with many communities at a full day’s distance or more from Managua’s bustling markets and commerce.  Somewhere around 1/3 of Nicaragua’s people are not connected to grid electricity, a condition which keeps them even further from developing full, productive livelihoods.  It gives me great pleasure to be able to say that Trees, Water & People (TWP) is working to close this gap in my seventh year of collaboration with the people of Nicaragua.

TWP and partners will provide families with solar lighting products that are sustainable, easy-to-use, and affordable.

This year marks the operational launch of TWP’s energy access initiative, a collaborative effort between TWP, our local partners AHDESA in Honduras, PROLEÑA in Nicaragua, and Árboles y Agua para El Pueblo in El Salvador, with support from PowerMundo of Colorado and Peru.  Together, we were awarded a grant from the U.S. State Department’s Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas, which will allow us to join the effort of bringing clean energy technologies to rural markets throughout Latin America.  By tapping into the vast networks that TWP has developed over 14-years providing energy-saving clean cookstoves to Central America, we are partnering with Power Mundo to also provide solar lighting, solar mobile phone charging, and other life-changing products and services to off-grid rural communities.

As we track the impact of our work, we expect to see rural livelihoods strengthened, levels of education rise, and rural communities become more integrated into the modern lives we in the west enjoy and often take for granted.  Follow our progress on this blog, as well as on the TWP and Power Mundo websites, as the project develops over the next three years.  Thank you for supporting Trees, Water & People, and for allowing us to put your donations to work for the people at the base of the global economy who hold so much promise.

What is “Energy Poverty”?

Energy Poverty can be defined as the lack of adequate modern energy for the basic needs of cooking, warmth and lighting, and essential energy services for schools, health centers and income generation (Practical Action, 2012).

According to PowerMundo, “Over three billion people worldwide do not have access to appropriate technology to meet their basic needs for simple activities such as cooking meals, lighting homes, or purifying water. As a result, billions of people suffer from energy poverty, preventable illnesses, and deplorable living conditions.”