This month in our San Andres Itzapa Community we took a break from school for the day and headed off into the countryside for a day of tree planting. GVI’s in-field partners, The Phoenix Projects, run a reforestation program in conjunction with a Stove Construction Project where GVI volunteers build an energy-efficient stove for a family. Without stoves the majority of families in the communities cook on open fires, burning large amounts of wood and clearing substantial areas of trees on a regular basis. Once a month all the children, staff and volunteers head off armed with tools and armfuls of tree seedlings for tree planting day; making an effort to counteract the negative impact deforestation has on the local environment.
Living conditions for the children who attend our school are basic; often a communal living space with an open fire for cooking. Not only is this dangerous with children living and playing near the open fire but it fills the living area with toxic smoke. The stoves that a GVI volunteer can build in just a week are fitted with a chimney to rid the indoor living area of smoke which in turn increases life expectancy as well as cutting fuel consumption by a considerable amount.
About 75% of the Guatemalan population burn wood as fuel for cooking and heating which contributes to more than 1620 Km of deforestation in Guatemala each year (AIR, Alliance for International reforestation). The knock on effect of this leads to problems with water supply, soil erosion, reduction in air quality and also depletes the natural supply of nutrients in the soil which, as farmers, most of our families rely on for source of food and income.
As well as reforestation Phoenix Project’s goal is to build a stove for each family of the 600 children that attend the two schools in Guatemala.
In addition to planting a considerable amount of trees on the day it was a great opportunity for our volunteers to see more of the local community and town where they work. Most of our pupils are already expert tree planters with knowledge of the local tree species so were able to teach the staff and volunteers a thing or two!
In the United Nations Development Programme’s 2011 Human Development Index (a worldwide measure of life expectancy, education and living standards) Guatemala ranked 131 out of 187. The poverty is mainly concentrated among the indigenous communities who live in rural areas such as San Andreas Itzapa and Santa Maria where The Phoenix Projects are based.