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by Kate Tarasenko

[Originally published in the Rocky Mountain Bullhorn (Fort Collins, Colo.),

Dec. 9-15, 2004, pg. 13]

One of the most serious health hazards to threaten the impoverished citizens of developing countries, especially those in Central America, is estimated
to kill over 1.5 million people each year. But it's not a typical scourge of poverty, such as unsafe drinking water, yet it's produced by something found
in the home of every family. The killer is indoor air pollution, and the culprit is the open-fire cook stove.

Trees, Water & People (TWP), the Fort Collins-based nonprofit powered by volunteer environmentalists, was recently awarded a $132,000 grant by
the EPA for a "micro-enterprise stove project" to help replace the carcinogen-producing family hearths with a safer, more fuel-efficient alternative.

Stuart Conway, co-founder of TWP and director for its international programs, says that, "Although we've helped build nearly 10,000 eco-friendly
stoves in Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico over the past five years, the need is in the millions. This grant will go a long way
to accelerate the much-needed change."

The EPA grant is administered through the Partnership for Clean Indoor Air which was launched at the World Summit on Sustainable Development
in Johannesburg in 2002. TWP was awarded the two-year pilot project grant, along with 11 other U.S. nonprofits, to develop safe and affordable
cooking and heating sources.

The World Health Organization estimates that more than 2 billion households around the world rely on some kind of indoor cooking source which
uses bio-mass for fuel, whether it's wood, animal dung or crop waste. The inefficient design of the traditional open-fire cook stoves requires an
inordinate amount of fuel, often contributing to the local deforestation problem. Couple that with the danger of carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide
and particulate emissions that cause acute and chronic respiratory infections and illnesses for home-bound women and children, and a world-wide
health and economic disaster is born.

Conway says, "A number of years ago, I was contemplating the fact that for every tree that was planted in Central America, 10 were being cut. We
were fighting a losing battle trying to re-forest, so I started to look for other ways we could slow de-forestation. One of them was stoves designed to
use less wood-fuel."

After Hurricane Mitch hit Central America in 1998, TWP focused on finding ways to help restore the already struggling economies and threatened
ecosystems of several local communities that were all but wiped out by the storm. One of TWP's former interns, Patrick Flynn, was working on his
Bachelor of Science degree at CSU's Natural Resource College at the time.

"I had a background in stove technology," says Flynn, "and I wanted to help implement a viable alternative" for TWP's ongoing stove replacement
projects. Flynn spent the better part of two years in Central America working on conservation projects and helping build eco-stoves that would be an
acceptable cultural substitute among the women of the local communities.

Now TWP's international program assistant, Flynn works with Conway in tandem with Rotary International, the Honduran Association for
Development, and the Oregon-based Aprovecho Research Center in teaching communities how to build and market their own eco-stoves. One
innovative design of these improved stoves was developed by Aprovecho's Dr. Larry Winiarski. His "rocket elbow" is the foundation for the new
Justa (hoo'-sta) stove, named for Doña Justa Nuñez, a Honduran woman who works with various nonprofits in her community of Suyapa, where the
stove was first introduced.

The simple but significant adaptation of the Justa stove replaces the U-shaped rammed-earth base of the traditional open-fire stove with an insulated
L-shaped or rocket-elbow shaft, which then connects to a chimney. The result of the improved design of the combustion chamber is a stove which
burns 70 percent less fuel, emits 95 percent less toxic gases and particulate matter, and costs less than $10 to build.

Flynn says that, rather than manufacture the low-cost stoves here in the U.S. and export them to Central America, it is more to the point for the
long-term to teach the indigenous communities how to do it. "The goal of this project is to help local nonprofits learn how to build these stoves t
themselves," he says. In addition to raising consciousness about health and environmental impacts, Flynn says, "It's a positive step for community-

While TWP may be mostly noted for planting 250,000 trees each year in countries around the world, Conway says that a do-it-yourself approach is
key. The recipient of an "E-chievement Award" from the Boulder-based radio program, "E-Town," Conway emphasizes that, "TWP works through
local nonprofit groups in each country. They're the ones who organize the on-the-ground operations to actually plant the trees."

Likewise, the DIY component is essential for the current EPA grant project to succeed. Citing the fact that most Latin American families subsist on a
monthly income of $100 or less, Conway says, "This stove project will definitely help strengthen their local economies."

Trees, Water & People relies on funding from 5,000 private donors, foundations and, now, this federal grant. It also runs eco-tours once a year,
headed by Flynn. Participants pay their way for all-inclusive guided excursions through designated parts of Central America where they get to trek
through national parks and unspoiled tropical forests. They can also go on working tours, helping to plant trees and build stoves. There are a few spots
still available for a trip to El Salvador in February.

Conway says, "We rely on interns and volunteers to get our work done, and TWP is always looking for new members." No special skills are required,
except a desire to be "part of the solution."

Check out the Justa stove design, as well as TWP's projects and tour schedules, at