Guatemala Volcano Recovery

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Mural in Guatemala depicting the history of displacement

by Patricia Flores White, Development Director

On Sunday, June 3rd, 2018, Volcán de Fuego erupted in Southern Guatemala, unleashing a massive pyroclastic flow that tore down the mountain’s southern flank at 50 mph. 300 are dead or missing while thousands were evacuated to relief shelters. Currently, recovery efforts have ceased and transportation in the area have been paralyzed, leaving the displaced indefinitely separated from their homes and livelihoods.

Among those displaced are the families of La Trinidad – one of Trees, Water & People’s (TWPs) partner communities and a member community of the Utz Che’ network. This is the third major displacement of this vulnerable population in a generation. Guatemala’s genocidal civil war drove them out of their native Huehuetenango into Mexico in the 1980s, only to be later resettled onto the high-risk flanks of Volcán Fuego.

Last year, we were fortunate enough to install cookstoves for 115 families in La Trinidad and to develop a plan to work on several projects with their coffee cooperative, UniĂłn Huista. With the help of our generous TWP family of supporters, we have committed the month of July to fundraise for the community of La Trinidad as it navigates emergency relief, relocation, and negotiation with the State to keep access to its farmlands.

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Map detailing area of pyroclastic flow and affected community

TWP is dedicated to improving people’s lives by helping people protect, conserve, and manage the natural resources upon which their well-being depends. While we are not a disaster relief agency we have the opportunity to work intimately with the affected communities in Guatemala during this time of chaos and devastation. We strive to live and breathe our community-based development philosophy in both words and action. As such, our Guatemalan partners, la Asociación de Forestería Comunitaria Utz Ché, have entrusted us to raise funds for the prolonged recovery process facing La Trinidad.

Everyone plays a role in making the world more sustainable and humane. Our donors provide the means, TWP provides networks and know-how, our local partners deliver solutions, and each beneficiary provides local materials and sweat equity. Together we drive change and create dignified, healthy futures for our global community. La Trinidad and their local coffee cooperative Unión Huista will need years to recover their agricultural productivity, and TWP and Utz Ché have committed to be there every step of the way.

We honor and appreciate everything that you do to help vulnerable communities like La Trinidad when they need it most. We could not do this work without your help. You will continue to see this crisis featured throughout the month of July as we garner aid and public support for the communities of Guatemala impacted by this natural disaster.

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Give today to help our partners in Guatemala begin their long and arduous journey towards recovery.

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Guest Blog: StoveTeam International and Trees, Water & People Team Up!

Introduction by Sebastian Africano, International Director

At Trees, Water & People (TWP), we’re one organization in a global movement to improve living conditions for some of the world’s poorest families. Working together with other groups expands our reach and our impact, which is why we are thrilled to collaborate with our colleagues at StoveTeam International to improve cooking conditions for rural Guatemalan families. Please enjoy our guest blog post by Katie Laughlin of StoveTeam International, and support TWP’s goal of funding 500 stoves for Guatemala in June 2016!

by Katie Laughlin, Program Director at StoveTeam International

In Guatemala, 2.4 million families cook over traditional open fires. Without action, that number will likely increase to 2.8 million by 2030. That’s a scary vision for the future of Guatemala, a nation whose iconic landscapes of virgin lowland jungles and highland cloud forests are already disappearing alarmingly fast due to escalating rates of deforestation; and where burns and respiratory infections caused by harmful smoke are responsible for more than 5,000 deaths a year.

Natividad Ortiz, who is the third beneficiary of the stoves in the community of El Tarral
Natividad and her family are the third beneficiaries of a clean cookstove in the community of El Tarral in southern Guatemala.

StoveTeam International is motivated to change this grim prognosis by supporting efforts, large and small, to provide communities access to efficient and safe cooking alternatives. That’s why we are excited to support Trees Water & People’s effort to provide hundreds of clean cookstoves to families in Guatemala!

This summer, TWP and its partner, Utz ChĂ©, will provide 500 stoves to three critically poor communities in Chiquimula, Jutiapa, and Escuintla. A StoveTeam International-sponsored cookstove factory, EcoComal, will provide many of these stoves. In StoveTeam’s experience, three elements are vital to success when working with local entrepreneurs to create independently owned and operated cookstove businesses – trust, local knowledge, and a passion for making a difference. TWP, Utz ChĂ©, and EcoComal bring all three to their work with communities to create a culture of clean, smoke-free cooking that can be passed on to the next generation.

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The community of El Tarral receiving clean cookstoves last month in southern Guatemala.

You too can be a part of the solution by donating a stove today. Together, we can impact Guatemala’s future and change the lives of families cooking over smoky and dangerous open fires. Make a tax-deductible donation to this project today.

 

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Conserving Guatemala’s Forests with Clean Cookstoves

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Community members gather for a clean cookstove demo hosted by Utz Che’. Local women help to design the fuel-efficient stoves based on their cooking habits and preferences.

by Sebastian Africano, International Director

After six months of planning, we are proud to launch into an ambitious clean cookstove initiative with our partner Utz Che’ in Guatemala.  From now through August 2016, Trees, Water & People (TWP) and Utz Che’ will be building 500 new clean cookstoves in three indigenous communities in the departments of Chiquimula, Jutiapa, and Escuintla.

Clean cookstoves provide many benefits to rural, indigenous families who do not have access to the electrical grid. These stoves remove smokey, open fires from the kitchen, greatly reducing deadly household air pollution. In addition to the human health benefits, cookstoves also reduce deforestation. In Guatemala, over 71% of the nation’s 14 million people are dependent on wood to cook every meal. This demand for fuelwood has put a huge strain on one of the country’s most precious natural resources: the forests.  Each stove uses about 50% less wood every time a meal is cooked, taking pressure off of the country’s forests and saving families money and time.

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Utz Che’ (“good tree” in the Maya K’iche’ language) is a unique organization as it is an association that represents 36 autonomous indigenous groups from around Guatemala, all working toward economic and environmental sustainability.  Utz Che’ helps these groups navigate the complex Guatemalan laws that govern property and natural resource rights, and advocates in the legal realm for communities to retain management and ownership of their land and resources.

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At a clean cookstove demonstration hosted by Utz Che’, local women test cookstove models that they will eventually use in their own homes.

TWP adds to the portfolio of Utz Che’ services by helping to build community tree nurseries, supporting training opportunities for Utz Che’ field staff and community members, and raising funds for clean cookstove initiatives, such as this one.  This is our community-based philosophy in action – partnering with local organizations to access remote communities, in order to collaboratively achieve local conservation goals and improve quality of life.

TWP’s work does not happen without the support of our donors here in the US.  That said, I encourage you to help us deliver the best service possible by donating to this and other TWP programs using the button below.  Over the next six months we will be posting updates about our Guatemala clean cookstove initiative, so sign up for our eNewsletter to watch our progress!

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Corporate Partner Spotlight: Houska Automotive

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The Doña Dora clean cookstove reduces household air pollution and fuelwood costs for Guatemalan families.

by Megan Maiolo-Heath, Marketing Manager

Houska Automotive, a long-time donor and friend to Trees, Water & People (TWP), is supporting one of our new cookstove projects that will bring hundreds of families in Guatemala cleaner burning stoves. The grant will go towards the building and installation of 500 clean cookstoves in the homes of families living in the municipalities of Camotán and Jutiapa, Guatemala.

The project will give local people knowledge and skills of clean cookstove technology, installation, use, and maintenance. Families will benefit from reduced firewood consumption and improved respiratory health. In addition, there will be a reduction in local deforestation and carbon emissions, which will help mitigate global climate change.

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The Problem

In Guatemala, deforestation is a serious issue. Cutting down forests for firewood is a principal culprit, with an annual demand of 15.8 million tons. Sources show that between 47% and 49% of the energy consumed in Guatemala comes from firewood; 70% of the country’s 15 million people rely on wood for their everyday cooking needs.

Excessive firewood use also has adverse impacts on health, especially for women and young children. Research shows that women and children spend the most time in the kitchen, inhaling the toxic smoke emitted at a much higher rate than the rest of the population. In fact, it has been compared to smoking three packs of cigarettes every day.

“The bottom line is that cooking in Guatemala is killing far too many people and destroying the natural environment at an alarming rate,” said Sebastian Africano, Trees, Water & People’s International Director. “Each improved cookstove installed will have a measurable and positive impact on the family that it serves, as well as on our global environment. We are thankful for the support of businesses like Houska who give back to our local community as well as communities in Guatemala who need our help.”

A Positive Impact for People and the Planet

TWP will implement this ambitious cookstove project with Guatemalan NGO, Utz Che’, a local umbrella organization that helps 36 small grassroots groups (mostly indigenous) organize and plan community development projects. Cookstoves with increased fuel-efficiency improve human health and family livelihoods, while protecting the environment.

Compared to traditional open cooking fires, our clean cookstove models use 40-50% less firewood. Less time spent collecting daily firewood means more time for other important activities necessary to support the family and invest in the future, such as education or home businesses. By removing up to 80% of the toxic smoke from the kitchen, this clean technology significantly reduces indoor air pollution which is responsible for four million deaths globally every year. Also, each cookstove decreases hazardous carbon emissions by an average of 68%, helping to combat climate change.

Thank you Houska Automotive for your continued generosity and support! To learn more about the many organizations that Houska supports please visit www.houskaautomotive.com/community-support

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Partner Spotlight: Ut’z Che’

Ut’z Che ‘(good tree in Mayan language K’iche’) is a Guatemalan NGO that represents 36 community organizations dedicated to sustainable management of their forests, forest plantations, water sources, biodiversity and other natural resources.

utzche logoThe Association Ut’z Che’ was formed with the main objective to legitimately represent the demands and interest of their grassroots organizations in different sectors, effect change in public policy areas related to the management of forests, and assist with rural development in general. Another key part is to strengthen the capacities of its member organizations, to achieve conservation and sustainable productive use of natural resources.

In Guatemala – where the state does not respond to the needs and demands for comprehensive development – Utz Che has organized to defend and claim their rights.

“Communities have been protecting natural reserves for centuries but living in poverty. We want people to improve their livelihoods while protecting forests.”

We are honored to work with Ut’Z Che’ and the communities they represent. Together, we build clean cookstoves, plant trees, and distribute solar lighting to their members in Guatemala, all in an effort to empower local people and conserve the natural environment that is so important to their livelihoods.

To learn more please visit www.utzchecomunitaria.org