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 10, 2015

The Building Blocks for a Better Life

Building blocks of a better life!
Building blocks of a better life!

We have started to pour the foundation for the Shield's home and now here are some of the 4,500 compressed earth blocks (CEBs) we are busy making. These are the building blocks for a healthier home and a better life for Paul and his family. 

What is Compressed Earth Block?

Building with earth offers an eco-friendly solution to one of the world’s, and one of the Oglala Lakota Sioux Tribe's, most pressing problems—the acute shortage of adequate shelter for families. Although earth is the oldest building material, compressed earth block (CEB) is part of a new wave of green building. CEB reduces the energy required and the pollution produced in the creation of bricks and cement blocks. In many areas, CEB homes can replace wooden structures that are contributing to the depletion of the world’s forests. Earth blocks are cheaper, greener, and far more durable than concrete blocks or mud bricks. It offers a construction upgrade while respecting local architectural and cultural traditions.

How do you make CEB?

Our partners at EARTHinBLOCK have a patented machine that produces blocks of precision height and width, with an adjustable length. The blocks are tongue-in-groove and can be dry stacked or used with mortar. The machine can also be manufactured to produce "traditional" blocks without the tongue-in-groove.

The machine is designed and manufactured in the U.S.A. It weighs under 2,000 pounds and can be towed behind a truck or SUV. It can be easily moved around a building site or up the side of a mountain. It takes roughly 4,300 blocks to build a 1,200-square foot house. The machine produces 2 blocks per minute. These blocks meet all relevant standards for load-bearing capacity and strength.

We look forward to sharing the progress as we continue manufacturing blocks and building this beautiful new home for the Shields family. Thank you so much for your love and support!

EARTHinBLOCK CEB machine
EARTHinBLOCK CEB machine
All ages can help make CEB!
All ages can help make CEB!
Sep 8, 2015

Native Students Gain Hand-On Solar Experience

Solar PV Training
Solar PV Training

On the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, home to the Oglala Lakota, over 40 percent of residents live without access to electricity. On Native American Reservations across the U.S., the Energy Information Administration estimates that 14 percent of households have no access to electricity, 10 times higher than the national average. Many tribes are looking to renewable energy as a way to provide reliable, clean energy to their tribal members.

Since 2007, Trees, Water & People’s Tribal Renewable Energy Program has been training Native communities in a variety of renewable energy applications, including solar PV, solar heating, wind energy, geothermal, and solar water pumps. This program strives to put the power of nature — the warmth of the sun, the power of the wind, the shelter of trees — to work for Native Americans. It also gives native entreprenuers the hands-on experience needed to gain an edge in the field of renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Last month, we hosted a Solar Energy Workshop that brought Native Americans from around the country to the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center on the Pine Ridge Reservation. The workshop explored basics of solar energy and culminated in a hands-on installation at the KILI Radio station, Voice of the Lakota Nation, where students expanded a solar PV array.

We want to thank our all-star intructors who brought their incredible talents and years of experience to the workshop:

  • Jeff Tobe
  • Henry Red Cloud
  • Deby Tewa
  • Johnny Weiss
  • Steve Carol

We also want to thank YOU, our friends and supporters who have made this a stronger program with your financial support. Stay tuned for more updates!

A Lakota blessing to open the workshop
A Lakota blessing to open the workshop
(Clean) power to the people!
(Clean) power to the people!
Sep 3, 2015

Local People Help Shape the Curriculum at NiCFEC

Don Enrique at the coffee farm in Chachagua
Don Enrique at the coffee farm in Chachagua

The Nicaraguan Center for Forests, Energy and Climate (NiCFEC) has been designed and developed for people who want to improve their lives while protecting the environment. This education and research facility will provide visitors with hands-on learning opportunities that can be applied in their day-to-day lives. From subsistence farmers to young college students, this will be a place where community is created and learning is fostered.

On a recent visit to the rural community of Chachagua, in the north central region of Nicaragua, we had the opportunity to live and learn with local campesino families, the very people who will benefit most from NiCFEC and the resources it will offer.

Coffee dominates the economy and way of life in this region of the country and one of our first activities was a visit to one of the local cafetales (coffee plantations). The campesino (farmer) who led our tour, Don Enrique, estimates that up to 80% of the families in Chachagua depend on coffee for their livelihoods. The campesino knowledge and awareness is acute - we are talking about people who live and work the land from a very young age, braving the climate, rain or shine, heat or cold. Through this traditional monitoring and evaluation of the natural environment many farmers, like Don Enrique, have indicated time and again that they have seen a marked uptick in hotter days over the last 7-10 years. They are extremely concerned about the potential impacts on their community and their livelihood: the coffee lifeline. This has been corroborated by this past summer’s (February-May) intense heat wave that brought record temperatures to Matagalpa, Jinotega, Esteli and Ocotal, the main coffee processing hubs[1].

According to some estimates, coffee represents anywhere from 20-25% of agricultural export revenue in both Honduras and Nicaragua. The economic importance of the crop cannot be overstated, and in the rural areas that are far from the main and even secondary roads in Honduras and Nicaragua, there are extremely limited opportunities for scratching out a living. If the coffee crops continue to struggle and should they ultimately fail, the coffee-dependent communities in these regions will likely see increases in internal migration and immigration, higher rates of malnutrition, poorer educational conditions, and general socioeconomic malaise.

“We need to plant more trees to have healthier soils and better air. As the cities grow we need to protect our forests.” Said Don Enrique, who sees pollution in large urban centers like Managua as a major cause of climate change.  

Visiting and working with rural communities like Chachagua for the past 18 years has given TWP staff and partners insight into how climate change is having a direct, negative impact on families. We have seen and heard that there is a strong need for crop diversification, reforestation, conservation and overall forest management as well as clean cookstoves and small-scale renewable energy systems. The NiCFEC will give people like Don Enrique the opportunity to learn from the experts in these areas and take this knowledge home to their families and communities.

We hear climate deniers in the U.S. continue to debate whether climate change is even real. I invite them to visit with the farmers we work with, whose crops and livelihoods have been devastated by a changing climate, and tell them not to worry about it. This is a very real issue and we hope to be a part of the solution. Thank you for joining us by supporting the Nicaraguan Center for Forests, Energy & Climate!

 

[1] http://www.elnuevodiario.com.ni/nacionales/315963-nicaragua-va-perdiendo-zonas-frescas/

Agriculture and forests compete for space
Agriculture and forests compete for space
 
   

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