15th Anniversary of La Bendición

by Lucas Wolf, Assistant International Director

Today marks the 15th anniversary of the founding of one of our keystone communities, La Bendición, in southeastern Guatemala. This community served as a gateway for us when we sought to deepen our presence in Guatemala through our local partner, The Association for Community Forestry, Utz Ché (translates as “Good Tree” in the Kaqchiquel language). Utz Ché introduced Trees, Water & People (TWP) to La Bendición with hopes that we could develop a long-term relationship to address some of the long-term challenges the community faces, such as agrarian debt, isolation and lack of livelihood opportunities.

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Women of the La Bendición community cooking.

La Bendición was founded on June 7th, 2000 by two indigenous communities that were displaced by the armed conflict in the 1990s in western Guatemala. They were relocated to an abandoned and defunct coffee plantation in the southeastern part of the country and were passed a bill for the value of the land, as assessed by the government. The discrepancy between the valuation of the land and what they received would characterize the next 14 years of their community’s existence. They have fought for dismissal of this over-inflated debt so they could get on with learning how to live separated from their ancestral land and people.

Last year, which marked my first year with TWP, I was fortunate enough to visit the community on three different occasions. My first week with TWP, March 2015, I joined our International Director, Sebastian Africano on a work trip with 16 other participants from all over the U.S. It was a huge success and served as a great introduction to the critical partnership building and community development that are a hallmark of TWP´s development model. Then, in October, I made an individual visit to work with Oswaldo Mauricio Orozco, who is both one of the community´s main youth group leaders and the Coordinator for Campesino Exchanges at Utz Ché. During that visit, we analyzed lessons learned from the March work trip in preparation for the then-upcoming December-January work trip with the Geller Center and Unity of Fort Collins. These groups also had a tremendous experience during their time in the community.

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The work group from the Geller Center and Unity of Fort Collins learning about coffee farming.

Our efforts at La Bendición are ongoing, with continued support in many strategic areas, including:

Agroforestry and apiculture – helping to strengthen and deepen the community´s commitment to strengthening the full life cycle of the forest and diversifying livelihoods with value-added products.

Sustainable agriculture – while coffee remains the principal cash crop, pineapple plots have increased exponentially and they are now focused on commercialization and marketing of these high-quality fruits.

Capacity building and leadership – supporting the youth group in its efforts to lead on agriculture, livelihoods and forestry through important trainings and opportunities for education and professional growth.

Community forestry and ecotourism – from its founding, La Bendición´s leaders realized how important the surrounding forest is and they have worked tirelessly to manage the buffer zone with an eye toward conserving forest health. Ecotourism proposals and concepts are currently underway and the renovation of the main community center was a focus of the last work trip´s efforts.

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Harvesting pineapple in La Bendición.

Help us celebrate the anniversary of this special community by donating to our efforts to install 500 stoves in three Utz Ché communities over the next two months. We are currently raising funds to complete the installation of these stoves with an eye toward expanding the project to Utz Ché’s network of 40+ indigenous partner communities across Guatemala. La Bendición is one of these communities, and we are excited to continue to support them as they continue on a path of sustainable development, autonomy, and prosperity.

Feliz Aniversario!

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15,000 Trees Have a New Home

This year’s planting season has been a great success so far! With the 15,000 ponderosa pines in the ground, thanks to the hard work of 39 Native Americans, Trees, Water & People (TWP) has beaten our previous year’s planting by 5,000 trees – and that’s just the start! For 2016, our goal is to plant 17,000, however, we wiped out the Colorado State Forest Service Nursery’s supply of ponderosas with our 15,000 order! So, we will be patiently waiting for the remaining 2,000 trees to sprout. This is all part of TWP’s goal to plant 1 million trees on tribal lands over the next several years.

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The planting crew gearing up to plant 15,000 ponderosa seedlings.

TWP’s Tribal Reforestation project came about a few years ago in response to several wildfires that severely impacted Tribal lands in southern South Dakota. It is estimated that 20,000 acres of ponderosa forests were lost, with very few seed trees surviving to naturally replant the forest. That’s why we’re working to help put the “pine” back in Pine Ridge! Planting the ponderosas will improve air and water quality, reduce soil erosion, re-establish wildlife habitat, enhance ecosystem resiliency, and sequester carbon and reduce greenhouse gases all while engaging Native Americans in the protection of their lands.

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Putting the “pine” back in Pine Ridge!

There to capture all the action on film was a videographer from Vision Makers Media. This Native-operated filmmaking organization empowers and engages Native Peoples to tell stories. They envision a world changed and healed by understanding Native stories and the public conversations they generate. We’re excited to be teaming up with Vision Makers Media to show you the progress of our reforestation efforts. With their 40 years of experience, we know you will enjoy the captivating footage of the scenic plains. Stay tuned for the video in the coming months!

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The tree planting dream team!

If you would like to help us plant trees on the Pine Ridge and Rose Bud Reservations, please make a donation to our Tribal Reforestation program.

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Project Update: El Salvador Tree Nursery Finds New Home

Ampliación de ingreso al terreno

In 2001, we formed a partnership with environmental conservation leaders in El Salvador, who created Arboles y Agua para El Pueblo (AAP) to address natural resource issues within the country. The organization is led by Armando Hernandez and his dedicated staff who work tirelessly to protect the precious natural resources of El Salvador.

Over the past year, the AAP team has been working to construct a new tree nursery in El Porvenir, with a capacity of 40,000-50,000 trees. The new nursery will go online in January of 2016.

Armando writes (as translated by Sebastian Africano):

“Since the beginning of December we have proceeded with site preparations to install the nursery, including the leveling of the surface via the provision of additional soil and compaction. Some of the soil purchased will be used for filling bags, for which we’ve hired auxiliary personnel. Additionally, we have gone out to cut and haul bamboo for posts and pillars to support the shade cloth over the nursery. Finally, we repaired and fortified the entry to the site, and are soliciting our connection to the municipal water system for irrigation.

Siembra de Huertas y árboles aledaño al cerco del terreno

During this period we will be dedicated to transferring and installing our new nursery, which requires that we contemplate the area that will be dedicated to the trees themselves, as well as the area we will use to grow squash, chayote and other foods and flowers that attract beneficial insects, like bees, and keep pests away from the seedlings.

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In terms of the infrastructure that we intend to install, we will include a shed space to deposit equipment, tools, materials and agricultural inputs (fertilizers, fungicides) needed in the nursery. We want to be sure to reserve a space for a staff person that will eventually stay at the site and care for the nursery and the assets onsite. We are in the process of designing the layout of the terrain with its associated budget, and making sure that the nursery will not be disturbed during the construction of the other components.”

Working with such a dedicated team of environmentalists in El Salvador has been an honor for our staff. To date, the AAP team has planted nearly 700,000 trees throughout the country. With this new nursery, we look forward to what the future holds for AAP and TWP.

To support TWP’s Reforestation efforts in El Salvador and throughout Central America and Haiti please click here.

Corporate Partner Spotlight: Project 7

Zoila Viverista, mostrando un Chaquiro con 18 días de germinación
Project 7 donations support our reforestation efforts throughout Central America and Haiti, including the El Porvenir tree nursery (pictured) in El Salvador.

We love working with innovative and socially responsible companies that are committed to conserving the Earth’s natural resources. Project 7 is one of these unique businesses with a clear mission to “Save the Earth” and a long history of generosity in support of that mission.

Project 7 and Trees, Water & People (TWP) have been partnering to “Save the Earth” since 2011. As a reforestation partner, TWP works with Project 7 to plant hundreds of thousands of trees each year. With their continued support, TWP plants over 50 species of trees in 5 different countries throughout Latin America (Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Haiti). These trees help restore local watersheds, improve soil health, and increase biodiversity in ares that have been threatened by deforestation.

Project 7Project 7 is dedicated to bringing great flavor back into your day while at the same time giving back to 7 areas of need. Little purchases when added up can pull many people together and make life changing impacts every day of the week. As Tyler Merrick, founder of Project 7 says, “If people are going to buy things – lots of things – then let’s use those things they purchase to help change the world around us. Let’s make everyday products for everyday people to solve everyday problems around the globe.”

The 7 causes chosen by Project 7 are the areas they see the most need in this world. These include: Feeding the HungryHealing the Sicksupporting those who Hope for PeaceHousing the HomelessQuenching Those who ThirstTeaching them Well, and Saving the Earth.

Every time you purchase a product from Project 7’s Save the Earth line, you are directly supporting our efforts to plant trees and improve the environment. For a list of retail locations click here.

Thanks for helping the Earth when you shop and thank you Project 7 for your continued support!

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About Project 7:

Founded in 2008, Project 7 has been a leader in the social entrepreneur movement by realizing the opportunity to make a difference in the world by selling everyday products that we’re already consuming and giving back on the sales of those products.

Happy Arbor Day!

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In the past 16 years, we have worked with hundreds of communities throughout Central America and Haiti to plant more than 5 million trees. Our reforestation programs focus on establishing and maintaining tree nurseries, educating communities about the positive environmental impacts of reforestation, and strengthening economic development, both through conservation and the responsible management of forest resources. We work with existing local groups, schools, and communities in extremely low-income rural and peri-urban areas to provide guidance on how to plant, graft, and maintain their trees.

We could not do this work without our generous friends and supporters who donate to these important reforestation efforts. Thank you to everyone who has made a difference for people and the planet. We honor you on this Arbor Day!

$1 = 1 tree

To plant a tree today please visit our website and click on the “donate” button in the upper right-hand corner: www.treeswaterpeople.org

Update: El Salvador Tree Nursery Successfully Relocated

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AAP staff water the new nursery after relocating to new land.

 

Since 2001, we have worked with Arboles y Agua para el Pueblo (AAP) to plant a wide variety of trees in El Salvador. AAP is an ideal organization to work with because they have such a dedicated and hard working staff with close ties to the local communities. Since our partnership began, we have planted nearly 600,000 trees, helping to address environmental degradation caused by deforestation in this small Central American country.

Resiembra de plantulas de Limón en nuevo Vivero Marzo 2014Earlier this year AAP received some bad news. They would have to vacate the land where their tree nursery had been located since 2007 because it was being divided and sold. Armando Hernandez Juarez, the Director of AAP, explained, “We tried to negotiatebut we were told to evict the property immediately as the demolition would begin and the nursery was in the way.”  Moving the nursery would be a huge challenge because AAP had already planted 25,000 seeds, not to mention that they would need to take down, transport, and then rebuild the infrastructure!

Thanks to the generosity of a local family with land available, the AAP team was able to relocate the tree nursery, including the 25,000 bags of soil. The nursery staff worked really hard to make this move happen so we can continue to grow precious trees for reforestation efforts throughout the country. Armando said, “We recognize the work done by our staff to dismantle the nursery in El Carmen and reestablish the new nursery. These people worked hard and without sparing any additional time.”

We are so grateful to our dedicated partners at AAP who have worked tirelessly to keep our nursery in operation. We look forward to seeing this tree nursery bloom with life in the coming months. Great work team!

Doña Tania Alarcón auxiliar de viverista llenando con sustrato las bolsas en el nuevo Vivero Marzo 2014
Tania Alarcón plants seeds at the new tree nursery location.