Trees Water & People

Trees, Water & People is committed to improving people's lives by helping communities to protect, conserve and manage the natural resources upon which their long-term well-being depends. We believe that natural resources are best protected when local people play an active role in their care and management.
Sep 7, 2012

Providing Lakota Families with the Gift of Heat

Solar heater installation
Solar heater installation

Rachel Blomberg is a Cornell University student who raised over $2,000 for Trees, Water & People to install solar heaters on the homes of Lakota families living on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Last month, she flew to the reservation to help install the solar heaters.

We combined the funds she raised- thinking she would just install one heater - with carbon offset funds to pay for heater panels, and GlobalGiving donations to help pay for additional parts and labor. But, instead of installing just one heater, she helped to install three heaters on the homes of Native American families!

She details her experience below. We would like to share her report with you, our generous donors who's contributions made this project a reality:

"My project could not have unfolded more perfectly.  As soon as I stepped off the plane in Rapid City, South Dakota, Darrell Red Cloud and another volunteer, Rachael Maddox, were there to pick me up and drive me out to Lakota Solar Enterprises on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.  On the way, we stopped at the Oglala Sioux Tribe's Home Improvement Program (HIP) office to speak with the inspector administration assistant, Clarence Yellow Hawk Sr., who chose the homes for this installation.

Upon booking my flights to return to Pine Ridge, I was unsure if we would be able to accomplish more than one installation.  However, once I got to the home of Henry Red Cloud at Lakota Solar Enterprises, I became aware that we would be doing not just one, but three solar panel installations that week. This was possible because of the generosity of donors to Trees, Water & People’s Global Giving and carbon offset fundraisers. 

The very next day after I arrived, Henry Red Cloud, me, and six other crew members associated with this solar air heater installation project loaded up the Solar Warrior Wagon with all our supplies and drove to the home of Gillard Good Voice Flute, who lives with three other elderly men.  Gillard and his family, or "tiospaye", are one of the lucky ones to receive a new HIP home from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Oglala Sioux Tribe, one of only about 10-14 homes built per year for families in need of housing.  This made his home ideal for a solar air heater installation, as these homes are moderately insulated and powered by electricity, not propane. 

While Henry instructed everyone on how to properly install the heating system, we all worked together to get the solar panel in place, the duct work run below the floors of the home, the air vents positioned in the floors, and the thermostat installed in the inside of the home.  After a full day of work, we accomplished our goal of giving the gift of heat.  However, we like to tell the home owners, “You just got solared!” instead.

After working on the home of Gillard, the next day we accomplished another installation at the home of Wanda and Darrell Walking, and the following day we installed one more at the home of Mike Merrival.  All three of these solar air heaters will heat homes for families with elderly and children, and will help a family’s heating and electricity bill decline by 30% a month.  As long as the sun is shining, as it does for 300 days a year out at Pine Ridge, these families will have free heat running through their homes, even when the temperatures drop below -40 degrees Fahrenheit.  These solar air heating systems not only provide some relief for families living at life-or-death poverty rates, they also reduce negative environmental impacts caused by heating a home with electricity or propane while helping this nation's Native peoples become energy independent.

One of the most important things that happened this week was spreading the word about my project to others.  The first day I was there, a separate group from Massachusetts was helping build straw bale homes at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center.  When they heard about what I had accomplished with my project, they decided that they would also try to complete the same goals and bring more solar air heaters to Pine Ridge."

Thank you to Rachel for all her hard work and dedication to the Lakota people! You can have the same impact that Rachel did by donating to this project, directly supporting Trees, Water & People’s Tribal Renewable Energy Program.

Learning how to install solar heaters
Learning how to install solar heaters
Solar Warriors!
Solar Warriors!
Solar heat for Lakota families
Solar heat for Lakota families

Links:

Jun 13, 2012

Creating a Cookstove Market in Port-au-Prince

Haiti Program Manager Jean Maire Gabriel
Haiti Program Manager Jean Maire Gabriel

With more than 15 vendors recruited to sell the Zanmi Pye Bwa (ZPB) Cookstove at different points throughout Port-au-Prince, Trees, Water & People’s Haiti Program Manager, Jean-Marie Gabriel, has taken to the TWP cookstove program like a fish to water.  This is only moderately surprising – he grew up in Port-au-Prince, and his 10 years in the U.S. have not allowed him to forget the ins and outs of this vast, urban labrynth.  His strategy is methodical: identify popular retailers of common goods in high-traffic sectors of the city, build a relationship, show them the product, and invite them to be trained at TWP’s Port-au-Prince office.

Most accept.  Once there, the group of vendors is shown an educational presentation about deforestation, the impact of excessive charcoal use on a family’s budget and the environment, and how the Zanmi Pye Bwa can help to alleviate these impacts.  Features and benefits of the stove are highlighted, and the vendors are encouraged to come up with sales tactics – an innovative, interactive challenge that leads to role-play, laughter, and confidence that the ZPB cookstove has value that other stoves do not.

The Zanmi Pye Bwa pays for itself in a matter of six weeks, and then saves users hundreds of dollars in its first year of use.  Apart from that, it provides a healthy profit margin and a new source of income to vendors who typically only make a few dollars a day.  The first batch of 10 stoves is given on consignment, but almost all have come back for more with a handful of cash – half to pay off the first batch, and half to purchase new stock.

To keep the venture as sustainable as possible, we focus on keeping retail prices high enough to cover materials costs of the stove, and fundraising to pay for the labor required to produce more.  This strategy leads us to work with only the most motivated vendors who are willing to learn, develop their sales skills, and stand behind a product that will cost their customers 5 times more than the less-efficient local alternative, but which will deliver previously unimaginable savings to families that depend on charcoal daily to feed their families.

Please join us in fueling this growing program, and creating a better future for the charcoal-dependent families of Haiti’s urban areas.

To learn more about Haiti Clean Cookstove Program and to make a donation please visit www.treeswaterpeople.org.

Clean cookstoves for Haiti
Clean cookstoves for Haiti
Zanmi Pye Bwas are sold throughout Port-au-Prince
Zanmi Pye Bwas are sold throughout Port-au-Prince
Double-burner ZPB clean cookstove
Double-burner ZPB clean cookstove
Vendors sell ZPB cookstoves around the city
Vendors sell ZPB cookstoves around the city

Links:

Jun 12, 2012

New Hope to the Navajo

Navajo Green Jobs event
Navajo Green Jobs event

This spring, the Tribal Renewable Energy Program realized a long-term hope of bringing solar heating to the Navajo (Diné) Nation.

In late February, I traveled with Henry Red Cloud, our Tribal Program partner and proprietor of Lakota Solar Enterprises (LSE), two members of his crew, Silas Red Cloud and Leo White Bear, and one of our most amazing Trees, Water & People (TWP) interns, Christy Proulx, to Shiprock, New Mexico. I have known that it has long been an aspiration of Henry’s to take his life-changing technology South, but it wasn’t until a few unexpected photo opportunities that it occurred to me that this trip was a real treat for Henry.

Of course, the real purpose of our trip was to bring our simple and replicable solar air heaters to the Diné people, and we received an inspiring, warm welcome. Claudia Jackson of Navajo Green Jobs arranged our demonstration installation for Pete and Eva Stokely, retired Diné teachers from Shiprock and respected elders in the community.

We also met Melton Martinez for the first time, for whom we installed a second demonstration solar heater, in the hopes that these two are just the first of hundreds for the Navajo Nation. Working with off-grid clients through Eagle Energy, Melton works to save Navajo families money on expensive Kerosene lanterns. The thing that affected me most about his work, however, was his dedication to eliminating the use of harmful fossil fuels. Even though Melton has electricity, he has a solar-powered night light by his bed in his south-facing bedroom. He told me, “Every time I use the solar light, it’s one less lump of coal that gets mined from our mountain and burned.” To Melton, reducing fossil fuel use is not just about having a tiny impact on the huge issue of climate change; it’s about fewer friends dying in coal mines, fewer children with asthma, and a better life for his people.

It was only because of our TWP donors that we were able to take this trip, bringing a little extra light into Henry’s life and a lot of warmth to the Stokelys and Melton. The next step in bringing solar air heaters to the Diné is to host a training with local champions like Claudia and Melton. Please support our growing relationship with the Navajo!

Hot air from the new solar air heater
Hot air from the new solar air heater
Solar Warriors!
Solar Warriors!

Links:

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