Trees, Water & People was cofounded in 1998 by Richard Fox and Stuart Conway, two foresters and friends who saw a huge need to address the pervasive deforestation in Latin America. As their plan evolved, they quickly realized that without addressing the underlying causes of deforestation, they would never be able to stop it.

We had to ask ourselves, if people are cutting down trees to cook their meals, then how can we help them reduce the amount of wood needed every time they cook.

For over nineteen years, Trees, Water & People has been a leader in not only reforestation, but also in the design and distribution of clean cookstoves and other clean energy products which greatly reduce the use of natural resources for energy creation.

At Trees, Water & People, our work is guided by two core beliefs: that natural resources are best protected when local people play an active role in their care and management and that preserving local ecosystems is essential for the ongoing social, economic, and environmental health of communities everywhere.

We are staffed by a group of dedicated conservationists who feel strongly about helping communities better manage the natural resources upon which their livelihoods depend. All of our programs help people and the planet by providing communities with a hand-up and not a hand-out. This approach creates economic opportunity while improving the environment and human health.

But we can't do it by ourselves.

With your help, we can make a world of difference!


Children look out their window on Pine Ridge Reservation

Our mission is to improve people's lives by helping communities protect, conserve, and manage the natural resources upon which their long-term well-being depends.

Community-Based Development

Trees, Water & People's unique community-based development model is based on the philosophy that the best way to help those most in need is to involve them directly in the design and implementation of local environmental and economic development initiatives.

This creates ownership, involvement, and financial sustainability well into the future. Our proven development model of training and execution, coupled with an enterprise approach, engages and inspires local residents to preserve their precious natural resources.

Identify Community Needs

Success in community-based development means understanding local needs. Working with the community members, we help the group address their concerns and common interests.

Partner with Local NGOs

Strong partnerships with local organizations and consultants are crucial for each of our projects.

Design and Implement Projects

The solution needs to fit into the existing social system, have clear objectives, and ways to measure success.

Evaluate and Monitor Projects

Monitoring and evaluating are essential tools when determining the effectiveness of the project. Lessons learned from the initial implementation can be applied to current and future projects.

Meet Our Team

Sebastian Africano

Sebastian Africano

Executive Director

After over a decade of service with Trees, Water & People, Sebastian Africano is proud to have been selected to lead the organization as Executive Director. He has worked first-hand in almost every aspect of TWP's programs, and brings deep perspective and dedication to advancing the struggles and aspirations of the communities TWP serves. While Sebastian travels less these days than he did during his first ten years with the organization, he is excited to raise his two young kids among the extended TWP family, and to continue building bridges to connect our unique global community. Sebastian holds an MBA from Colorado State University, where he is also Affiliate Faculty with the Warner College of Natural Resources.   

Eriq Acosta

Eriq Acosta

National Director

Eriq Acosta joins Trees, Water & People after spending the majority of his career in nonprofit rural and urban tribal communities throughout the American Southwest and Los Angeles. His work revolved around helping people discover multi-generational greatness and their connection to our planet. He believes that one cannot heal themselves without first healing the land. He believes that in order to heal the land its vital we begin to heal ourselves; in order to heal ourselves we must heal the land, They are one in the same! Eriq will be taking on the role of National Director working not only with Tribal communities but also expanding our efforts and ideas nationally! His goal is to incorporate the generational greatness of Tribal and non-tribal communities to make this place we call home last for generations to come!   

Gemara Gifford

Gemara Gifford

International Director

Gemara joined TWP in 2015 as an intern for the International Program after she finished her Master's work at Cornell University. She served as our Development Director in 2016 and in 2017 became our International Director. Gem has dedicated her career to showing that conservation and community development can work hand-in-hand across the Americas, especially in the most fragmented landscapes like Central America. Gem’s vision is to work closely with our local partners to co-design holistic programs that emphasize reforestation, improved cookstoves, sustainable agriculture, water security, biodiversity monitoring, and women's leadership in rural Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador. Gem is a Denver-native, and received her M.S. in Natural Resources from Cornell University in 2015 as a Gates Millennium Scholar, and her B.S. in Zoology at Colorado State University in 2012 as a First Generation Student Scholar. When Gem isn’t traveling, she enjoys the Colorado sunshine, her two kitties, and spending time with her family.    

Patricia Flores White

Patricia Flores White

Development Director

After a decade of working in grassroots, sustainable community development in Ecuador, Patricia joins Trees Water and People as the Development Director. She is culturally fluent and dedicated to bridging the gap between the greater TWP family of supporters and the communities we serve. As a first generation student, Patricia earned her B.S. in Geology with a minor in Environmental Studies from Colorado State University's Warner College of Natural Resources. She also enjoys a profound relationship with nature after many years of climbing, tele-marking, surfing and playing in the back-country of both Colorado and Ecuador.   

Diane Vella

Diane Vella

Finance Director

Director of Finance and Administration since 2007, Diane brings her years of accounting experience to maintain TWP's financial health, as well as managing our human resources. When she isn't crunching numbers, you can find her working with local animal welfare organizations, playing the piano, or cruising around town on her bike.   

Molly Geppert

José Chalit

Communications Manager

Originally born in Mexico City, José grew up moving around Latin America and the U.S. before finally setting down roots in Colorado in 2004, all of which stimulates José’s passion for storytelling and community development. As a filmmaker and graphic artist, José has always been committed to telling stories that involve local community members and generate social impact. Whether it's creating documentaries with migrant, indigenous farmworkers in Northern Washington, or translating Spanish for families during parent-teacher conferences in schools, José cares deeply about empowering disenfranchised communities to thrive through many means of communication.

José comes to TWP after graduating from Seattle University in 2017 with a B.A. in Film Studies and Theology. He is excited to continue forming and creating TWP’s story, and loves being back in Colorado while also having opportunites to work with Latin American and Native populations across the hemisphere.    

Molly Geppert

Molly Geppert

Data & Marketing Manager

Molly was born and raised in Fort Collins. She got her start at TWP as an intern and has since moved up to data & marketing manager. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies and German at the University of Colorado, and her two Master’s degrees in Natural Resources and Sustainable Development and Internal Affairs through a dual degree program with American University in Washington, DC and the United Nations Mandated University for Peace in Costa Rica. Outside of the TWP office, Molly is either wrangling kids at her other job, playing board games with friends, or hanging out in the mountains with her family and dog.   

Amanda Haggerty

Amanda Haggerty

Data and IT Manager

Amanda joined the TWP team in 2009 as the Data and IT Manager. She has a B.S. in Natural Resource Management with a minor in Spatial Information Systems, a graduate certificate in Geographic Information Systems and is currently working on getting her B.S. in Computer Science. She has a passion for science and technology and enjoys having an opportunity to use her skills for good and not evil. When Amanda isn't querying the database, tinkering with our network, or staring at this website, she likes to work with her hands: sewing, knitting, or building things from her single-board computer.   

Caitlin Tuminello

Caitlin Tuminello

Office & Facilities Manager

Caitlin first joined Trees, Water & People as an intern in 2017 and since then has moved up to the office and facilities manager. She holds a Bachelor's in Ecosystem Science and Sustainability from Colorado State University. She primarily works on maintaining the garden, managing volunteers, and holding down the fort through various day-to-day tasks. When she’s not in the office, you can probably find her somewhere watching live music or camping.   

Board of Directors

Jeff Hargis, President
R & D Engineering Section Manager (retired), Hewlett Packard

Jenny Bramhall, Vice President
Owner of Clothes Pony

Henry Mouton, Treasurer
Chief Operating Officer, Motherlove Herbal Company

Paul Thayer, Secretary
Special Advisor to the Provost \ Emeritus Vice President for Student Success Colorado State University

Jon Becker
Former Co-Owner, SolarGlass Window & Door

Stuart Conway
Cofounder of Trees, Water & People

Kathryn Higgins
Owner of Motherlove Herbal Company

Scott Johnson
Family Doctor (Retired), Brush Family Medicine

Jamie Klein
Judge (retired), Colorado District Court

Tyrone Smith
Director, Native American Cultural Center Colorado State University

Marilyn Thayer
Director, TRIO Academic Advancement Center Colorado State University

Jake Tornatzky
Co-Owner at 3 Seeds

James Welch
Founder (retired), Bella Energy

Lara Williams
Cofounder, Green Team Real Estate

A tree nursery outside a Honduran home.