As professional foresters, Richard Fox and Stuart Conway saw an enormous need to address the widespread deforestation issues in Central America.

When trees are cut down, carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere. Of all the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere every year, it is estimated that 25 percent of it is the result of trees being cut and burned.

The two friends quickly realized that without addressing the problems that lead people to cut down so many trees, they would never be able to stop it.

“We had to ask ourselves, if people are cutting down trees to cook their meals, then how can we help them reduce the amount of wood needed every time they cooked?” Fox said.

To answer that question, Fox and Conway co-founded Trees, Water & People (TWP) in Fort Collins, CO. TWP is a nonprofit organization that not only protects the environment through conservation, but creates new economic opportunities for local people, similar to what Long Way Home is doing for communities in San Juan Comalapa.

Since its inception in 1998, TWP has been doing just that, working around the clock in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and U.S Tribal Lands to provide essential equipment and knowledge to local communities in order to protect their natural forests. Some of their contributions include:

  • Cookstoves: These simple appliances decrease a family’s need for firewood by 50 to 70 percent compared to standard open-fire cooking. It also decreases carbon dioxide emissions by at least 1.5 tons per year.
  • Renewable energy: In 2012, TWP launched Luciernaga, a social enterprise that brings clean energy to families in Central America. Luciernaga imports solar-powered lights, phone chargers, solar household systems and other solar products into the region.

Image courtesy of Trees, Water & People.

Reducing the Use of Natural Resources

Today, TWP has not only become a leader in reforestation, but also in the design and distribution of cookstoves and other products that make people less dependent on natural resources.

For Katie Murphy, TWP’s corporate partners coordinator, what really inspires her is knowing that these community-based projects can be incredibly life-changing for families.

“When you understand the terrain and know that most of the areas we work in are rural and peri-urban areas – which can mean access to economic opportunities is scarcer than in urban areas – you understand how important it is to grow community-based development projects and provide families with resources that make their daily lives easier,” she said.

Providing a Hand Up, Not a Handout

TWP’s grassroots approach creates economic opportunity while helping the environment and human health.

Lucas Wolf“Our primary hope at TWP is that we continue to emphasize strong capacity-building and local community development leadership so that the collection of communities that we work with in Central America and in Native American communities in the US, are able to provide sustainable livelihoods and increased resilience for its citizens.”

Lucas Wolf I International Director

Not only does TWP believe that natural resources are best protected when local people play an active role in their care and management, but they also believe that preserving local ecosystems is critical for the ongoing social, economic and environmental health of communities everywhere.

After all, the mission is “to improve people’s lives by helping communities protect, conserve and manage the natural resources upon which their long-term well-being depends.”

Nicaragua Tree Planting

Image courtesy of Trees, Water & People.

The response from the people in Central America and other places TWP works in has been exceptionally positive.

“We’ve really developed a unique network of highly qualified professionals who care deeply for their communities, their families and the future of their local environment and the planet as a whole,” Wolf said.

Budget Dumpster is your community-focused source for a dumpster rental in Fort Collins, CO. This article is part of a series spotlighting organizations that are making a difference in the communities we serve. If you know of another great organization, let us know in the comments!