TWP Welcomes New Assistant International Director

Lucas Wolf Guatemala
Lucas (left) didn’t waste any time getting his hands dirty on his first trip to the field, where he visited with communities in rural Guatemala.

We are excited to welcome Lucas Wolf to the Trees, Water & People (TWP) family. As the new Assistant International Director, Lucas will help manage our Clean Cookstove, Reforestation, and Solar Energy Programs in Latin America. Lucas will be based out of Central America, where he has lived for nearly three years.

“I’m looking forward to getting into the field and experiencing both the challenges facing the communities we work with and the rewards that come from the fruits of our collaborations,” said Lucas. “I have a keen interest in all of the countries, languages, and cultures in this region. The potential for sustainable and meaningful development is immense.”

Lucas spent most of the last five years learning the ropes of the USAID contracting world, but previously spent significant chunks of time in Central and South America. First, as a Peace Corps volunteer with the youth development program in Honduras, and then as a Rotary World Peace Fellow at the Universidad del Salvador in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Currently based in Magagua, Nicaragua, Lucas will help to coordinate our projects in Central America and Haiti. A Fort Collins guy through and through – despite lots of years in other locales – he’s excited to be working for an NGO based out of his hometown that is also active in Central America, Haiti, and Tribal Lands of the U.S.

Partnership with Peace Corps and ECPA Increases Access to Clean Energy in El Salvador

Peace Corps cookstove project El Salvador
Peace Corps Volunteer, Ismaldi Cueto, helped build clean cookstoves in the community of Las Pillas, El Salvador with training from TWP.

Since 2012, we have been working with the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas (ECPA) in Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala as part of their “Improving Access to Clean Energy” initiative.

As implementing partners for the ECPA, we are working to:

  • Increase low carbon economic growth and development
  • Accelerate the uptake and deployment of renewable, energy-efficient technologies, including solar energy products such as solar lighting and phone chargers
  • Advance countries’ abilities to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation
  • Promote regional cooperation and integration

Ambitious? Yes! But we have had great success with this program, and a huge part of that success is due to strong partnerships. Peace Corps has been one of these strong partners.

In El Salvador, our local partners have worked to train Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) to build clean cookstoves. PCVs, in turn, teach local people in their communities about the benefits of our cookstoves and help them build them in their homes. This training model empowers local people with the knowledge to build and maintain cookstoves long after the PCV has left the community. Knowledge is passed along, deforestation is reduced, and homes are healthier as more and more families switch from traditional open fire stoves to clean cookstoves.

To date, this innovative partnership has built nearly 500 clean cookstoves with ECPA funds and the help of dedicated PCVs.

building clean cookstoves El Salvador
Don Jorge Garcia trains community resident Osmi Rameriz in cookstove construction in the town of Caserio Las Minas.

Community Voices: Blanca Lilian Ebarrá

Blanca Lilian Ebarrá

“I don’t breathe in smoke anymore and I can cook rice, stew and make tortillas all at once. The griddle heats up really well, cooks fast, and my pots stay clean.”

After a hot and bumpy two hour drive up a steep, winding road we reached the community of La Cuchilla (“The Blade”), El Salvador, a reference to the mountain ridge that it sits atop. We’ve come to visit Alicia Cock, a Peace Corps Volunteer who’s been living here since August of 2009. Around the table, Alicia shares with us a list of this year’s projects, including promoting economic opportunities for women and the introduction of Justa cookstoves to La Cuchilla. While only 80 families live in this tiny community, 65 of them now cook their meals on clean-burning Justa cookstoves, an accomplishment that Alicia speaks of with great joy.

The remoteness of villages like La Cuchilla can be a challenge for coordinating a clean cookstove project. Some supplies like wood ash and clay can be contributed by the locals, but the griddles, combustion chambers, and chimneys must be supplied by Trees, Water & People’s Salvadoran partner, Árboles y Agua para El Pueblo. When extra funding was needed, Alicia raised an additional $2,000 through the Peace Corps Partnership Fund by asking her friends and family to donate. Once the supplies arrived, she provided training to a father and son team who became the resident cookstove builders (tecnicos).

Alicia Cock and Blanca
Alicia and Blanca cooking tortillas on a new cookstove

Blanca Lilian Ebarrá is one of those cookstove beneficiaries. She’s a bubbly young woman who was happily making tortillas when we arrived to say hello. When asked how she liked her new Justa cookstove, she cheerfully shared with us all the benefits and ways her life has improved. “I don’t breathe in smoke anymore and I can cook rice, stew and make tortillas all at once. The griddle heats up really well, cooks fast, and my pots stay clean.” When asked about firewood consumption, Blanca said she noticed right away that she was cooking with about half of what she habitually used. She said that she doesn’t have to buy firewood because her husband goes up the hill and prunes the trees instead. “But now with this stove he goes less often and he’s very grateful for that!”

When Alicia returned to the U.S., she happily reported the 15 families, who originally were not interested in improved cookstoves, are now asking to be included in the project. The families we visited said that they’ll be sad to see Alicia go, but will remember her fondly as they cook on their much appreciated, clean and economical Justa cookstoves.

Warm Wishes from El Salvador

We recently received this letter from Armando Hernandez Juarez, our long-time partner in El Salvador and Director of Arboles y Agua para el Pueblo. Armando is a leader in environmental conservation in Central America and we are honored to work with him.  His words meant so much to all of us here at Trees, Water & People that we thought we would them with you too!

(Letter translated by Sebastian Africano)

clean cookstove El Salvador
TWP’s International Director, Sebastian Africano (left) and Armando Hernandez Juarez (right) stand with a clean cookstove beneficiary in El Salvador.

Dear Richard Fox and our family at Trees, Water & People,

My sincere congratulations on celebrating 15 years of achievements, contribution to the environment and thus to this land that gives us life, food and clothing.

What better way to celebrate 15 years of TWP than with the satisfaction we get from raising the dignity of the people whom we support with your projects, and with the tireless effort and human sensitivity with which the TWP family does its work.  

On this occasion I also take other opportunity to warmly greet another of the pioneers of this work, I refer to Mr. Stuart Conway; a great benefactor and visionary, as his efforts have led to concrete works in our country El Salvador, benefiting a large number of families and communities through the establishment and production of countless trees that have protected groundwater resources, climate and forest recovery in general, as well as the provision of stoves that have actually contributed to improving the socioeconomic conditions of families have benefited from this project.

I do not want it to go unnoticed that the unconditional efforts of the TWP family have also helped reduce pollution levels and therefore prevent infectious diseases in families and communities who have been favored with latrines projects.

It is gratifying that our work in El Salvador through TWP leaves a trail of impact in communities and even public and private institutions and service organizations such as the Peace Corps Office who use our support to develop projects that benefit the target population of their programs.

Trees, Water & People Family, may the fifteen years that we celebrate on this occasion be multiplied continually.

Respectfully, if you will allow me, receive my thanks for being part of TWP.


 Armando Hernandez Juarez

Donors Speak: Side by Side in Guatemala

By Dale Dow and Vern Delk, Trees, Water & People Donors

Why do donors give to our projects? This testimonial from long-time supporters Dale Dow and Vern Delk answers this question beautifully:

We first met Stuart Conway, Trees, Water & People cofounder and his wife, Jenny, in Miami in 1984, as we were preparing for our Peace Corps service in Guatemala. Naturally, we were in contact with them over the next two years. This was especially true with Vern and Jenny, as they were in the same program
as 4-H Promoters. Stuart was in the forestry program and got a first-hand view of the deforestation and general lack of reforestation in Central America, especially Guatemala. Dale was with public health, working as a nurse in a dispensary in our village. One of the primary programs in Guatemala was providing more efficient stoves, both for better cooking conditions and to prevent continued overuse of firewood leading to more deforestation.

We returned to the states in 1986, resuming a life quite altered by the experience. Guatemala will always be our second country. We have stayed in contact with Stuart and Jenny ever since, as much as the distance allows. One of these days, we hope to go on an EcoTour as a good excuse to revisit Guatemala.

When Stuart and Jenny started Trees, Water & People (TWP) in 1998 based on their work in Central America, emphasizing reforestation and fuel-efficient stoves, we jumped on board with financial support. Over the years, our contributions have fluctuated somewhat ranging from $200 to $1,000. This year, we have started a monthly pledge of $50 so that TWP will receive a steady amount (also it makes it easier for us). This of course doesn’t preclude special emergency appeals such as Hurricane Mitch in 1998 or the more recent earthquake in Haiti.

Our Peace Corps experience showed us the need for reforestation and fuel-efficient stoves in Central America. Working side by side with Stuart and Jenny in Guatemala insured us of the integrity and ability of the founders. The many awards that Trees, Water & People has received reinforce our belief that the credibility and efficiency of the program is topnotch.

Are you interested in becoming a monthly donor to Trees, Water & People? Click here to learn how.

TWP Participating in 2011 Smithsonian Folklife Festival

Since 2002, TWP has worked with the Peace Corps in El Salvador to train hundreds of volunteers in reforestation and clean cookstove techniques.

Trees, Water & People (TWP) will be participating in this year’s Smithsonian Folklife Festival as a part of the Peace Corps theme of the festival, which will commemorate and celebrate the service and accomplishments of Peace Corps Volunteers during the agency’s first fifty years.  At the Festival, TWP will be demonstrating several clean cookstoves, including building a Honduran Justa cookstove each day. They will also have tree seeds from Central America, Guatemalan masks, indigenous handicrafts, and traditional clothing on display.

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival is an international exposition of living cultural heritage annually produced outdoors on the National Mall of the United States in Washington, D.C., by the Smithsonian Institution’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. The event is free and open to the public.


Kelsey Stamm, a Peace Corps Volunteer in El Salvador, helps tend to seedlings in one of TWP’s Salvadoran tree nurseries.

Sargent Shriver Award for Distinguished Humanitarian Service

The Sargent Shriver Award for Distinguished Humanitarian Service is awarded by the National Peace Corps Association to a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer who continues to make a sustained and distinguished contribution to humanitarian causes at home or abroad or is an innovative social entrepreneur whose actions will bring about significant long-term change. The award was named to recognize the tremendous contributions of the first Peace Corps Director, Sargent Shriver, in the founding and development of the Peace Corps.

We are proud to see Stuart Conway, TWP’s co-founder and International Director, in this video by the National Peace Corps Association!

Notes from the Field: Teaming with the Peace Corps to Build Clean Cookstoves

Notes from the Field from Claudia Menendez, TWP’s International Program Coordinator:


April 4th, 2011: La Cuchilla, Department of Chalatenango, El Salvador

Alicia (Peace Corps Volunteer) stands next to a stove beneficiary in La Cuchilla, El Salvador.

After a hot and bumpy 2.5 hour drive we reached the community of La Cuchilla (the blade), which refers to the steep mountain ridge it sits on. We’ve come to visit Alicia, a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) whose been living there for over a year and half.  Alicia is a prime example of what a PCV’s contribution to community can be as she tells us about the many environmental projects, women’s economic activities, and Justa cookstoves she’s built in La Cuchilla.

The El Salvador TWP team (Arboles y Agua para El Pueblo), Alicia and one other PCV from a nearby community, helped train a father and son team as the community stove builders.  Arboles supplied the griddles and combustion chambers and supervised the stove building, while Alicia raised additional money through the Partnership Fund, asking friends and families to donate to the project.   Alicia was able to raise $2,000 and coordinated with the Mayor of La Laguna to provide transport for the cookstove building materials.  The La Cuchilla community is made up of 80 families, 65 of them now cook daily on improved Justa cookstoves – an impressive accomplishment, especially after traveling the long and winding road up to this rural mountain community.

Making tortillas on a fuel-efficient cookstove. Helping people and the planet!

Alicia goes back to the US in August of this year.  She says that the other families don’t want to be left stoveless and are urging her to help them as they organize amongst themselves to collect materials little by little. Alicia says that building these 65 Justa cookstoves wasn’t an easy task, so building another 15 clean cookstoves should be a little easier although she awaits a challenge.

The Facts and Background:

Currently, El Salvador is the second most deforested country in Latin America (after Haiti).  Today, most deforestation in El Salvador results from the country’s high population that relies heavily on the collection of fuelwood for meeting cooking needs.  Aside from the horrible environmental degradation that occurs from cooking over open fires, there are also major health issues surrounding this practice.  According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nearly 2 million people, mostly women and children, die each year from indoor air pollution. A simple, appropriate technology such as a fuel-efficient cookstove will reduce  each families fuelwood consumption by up to 70% while, at the same time, reducing indoor air pollution by up to 80%; a sustainable solution that is good for both people and the planet.

Click here to learn more about TWP’s Fuel-Efficient Cookstove Program.

TWP’s Co-founder Stuart Conway on Colorado Public Radio to Mark Peace Corps’ 50th

Stuart Conway stands in a Guatemalan tree nursery that he helped to start during his Peace Corps service.

Stuart Conway, TWP’s Co-founder, shares his Peace Corps experience in Guatemala and how it inspired him to start Trees, Water & People in 1998.

From Colorado Public Radio:

“This month the Peace Corps marks its 50th anniversary. We hear from three Coloradans who say it changed their lives. University of Colorado journalism graduate Josh Boissevain currently volunteers in Moldova. Former state Democratic party chair Pat Waak served in Brazil from 1966 to 1968. Stuart Conway volunteered in Guatemala from 1984 to 1987. He runs the Fort Collins-based non-profit Trees, Water and People. They talk with Colorado Public Radio’s Sadie Babits.”

Listen to the show here: Coloradans Mark Peace Corps’ 50th.

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.