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Forests for the Future

January 30, 2013

by Jesse Hyde, Deseret News

collecting-wood-in-guatemala Guatemalan stove projects help reduce the consumption of wood by 70 percent, saving an estimated 12 trees per year per family.
© Alan Gibby

High in the Alta Verapaz region of Guatemala, the fires are always burning. They burn to clear land to farm corn and coffee. They burn rain forest to make way for cattle. “Long ago there was a huge forest here with big trees,” remembers Blas Cuz, a local farmer. “Now that forest is gone.”

Cuz lives in the small village of Seamay. For most of his life, he has hiked at least an hour, several times a week, to gather firewood. Today, he must walk farther for wood, as Guatemala lost 17 percent of its forest between 1990 and 2005.

Cuz mourns the loss of so much nature near his village, but he must gather wood to cook meals and boil water. Cooking over open-pit fires is a necessity for his family and so many others.

While deforestation continues to challenge the region, one small idea is making a big difference. Cuz recently installed a new, high-efficiency stove in his kitchen. The stove was bought with assistance from LDS Charities and the Maya Relief Foundation, a charity that has brought hundreds of stoves at a heavily subsidized price to Guatemala.

guatemalan-stoves-sm More efficient stoves mean more time for work and school as well as less time with illness.
© Alan Gibby

The stove is made of fired clay and reduces wood consumption by 70 percent. Families pay one third of the cost. “We are trying to build self-reliance,” says Leon Reinhart, founder of the Maya Relief Foundation. “If we can reduce the amount of wood families need each week, that’s time they can spend working to improve their lives.”

For Blas Cuz, the new stove means more time with his family. Now he only goes out on Saturdays to look for wood. His children can stay in school. With his additional time, Cuz is training to become a mason so he can provide better for his family.

The stove initiative is part of a broader effort by LDS Charities to improve life in the village. Over the past year, LDS Charities, in partnership with several U.S.-based charities, has built a water system, begun construction on a school, and helped several villagers get loans to start small businesses, such as chicken farms. The difference will be felt for many generations.

Humanitarian projects like those in Guatemala depend on funding provided by individuals like you. Your donation of any amount will help bless others like those in rural Guatemalan villages.

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