Non-Profit Spotlight: Alliance for International Reforestation, Inc.
The Alliance for International Reforestation, Inc. (AIR) is an Atlanta-based nonprofit whose mission is to implement educational programs, reforestation, and regenerative farming programs in Guatemala to prevent mudslides, build soil health and food sustainability, and protect Guatemalan water sources. Besides the main reforestation technique of planting trees, AIR creates self-sustaining projects that allow for continuous growth in their communities. Anne Hallum, AIR’s founder, established the organization in 1993 after a spontaneous volunteer trip to Guatemala with a Stetson University class, where she was a political science professor. Once there, she saw the devastation caused by deforestation on the climate and the region’s people. With students’ help, Hallum created AIR and returned to Guatemala to hire staff.
Deforestation across the globe has wreaked havoc on the climate, contributing to climate change. AIR actively combats deforestation by planting trees where they’re needed. These trees also help remove tons of CO2 from the air, reversing climate change’s effects. In 2020 alone, AIR planted over 700,00 trees!
Deforestation and increased rainfall from climate change has significantly increased the number of mudslides mountainous Guatemala experiences each rainy season. In response. AIR plants native “pino triste” pine trees on the sides of mountainous slopes as they grow quickly and have solid and deep roots to further prevent devastating mudslides. Luis Iquique, an AIR technician, said that the pine trees “look like soldiers standing guard” while they protect locals from further disaster.
Due to the close working relationships technicians have with Guatemalan locals, AIR can quickly and efficiently provide critical short-term aid to emergencies and disasters in the region. For example, during the 2018 Volcán de Fuego eruption, technicians provided emergency food aid to farmers who lost their crops and new boots to fire department crews whose boots were melting while fighting to save their communities.
AIR technicians work with rural schools and communities to teach students sustainable farming practices. For example, AIR technicians help students establish a vegetable garden at the school whose produce they take home, establish a tree nursery like those other communities use as micro-businesses, and teach students how to make the “Bocashi” organic fertilizer recipe. AIR has also produced a curriculum for high school students about forestry education with the help of the Ministry of Education and BOPAZ (“Bosques Para La Paz”). These rural school programs are vital to reinforcing the regenerative farming techniques that are applied by neighboring communities.
AIR technicians teach locals better nutrition and regenerative farming, including farming with trees, terracing, polyculture, no-till farming, and organic fertilizers that keep carbon in the ground. Guatemala has one of the highest rates of chronic malnutrition, so these techniques keep farming families healthier, and healthier families mean healthier environments! Unfortunately, farmers are often pressured to buy chemical fertilizers, which offer short-term profits but are harmful to human health and destructive to the environment–and future land use. Instead, AIR technicians teach Guatemalan farmers how to make organic compost called “Bocashi,” a technique created by a former volunteer named Yoshitaka Ota.
AIR uses tree nurseries to teach Guatemalan locals how to farm, and these trees are planted to reforest Guatemala! The community owns these nurseries after AIR establishes them as a source of income. These micro-businesses allow the continued sale of seedlings to interested neighbors and teach about sustainable farming and reforestation!
About 80% of the Guatemalan population uses fire-burning wood stoves for cooking and heating. Unfortunately, these traditional open-fire stoves constantly emit harmful smoke, which can cause lung disease and accidental burns to women and children. Since 1996, AIR has worked to build brick stoves with chimneys to lessen the chances of smoke inhalation and unintentional burns. These stoves–which have saved over 880 tons of wood each year!–are specially designed for each household, provide a large food preparation area, and are custom-designed for each woman’s height. AIR has been able to build 880 new stoves so far!
After 12 in Guatemala, most rural families can’t afford the tuition and supplies needed for all their children to finish high school. AIR can provide scholarships for rural Guatemalan teens to complete their education, thanks to individuals in the US! Students who receive the scholarship agree to study hard and work in the tree nursery planting trees around the community and their sch
ools. Meanwhile, those who sponsor these students receive letters and photos from the student about their experience and hard work. Sponsorships cost only about $800 per year, which covers tuition, supplies, transportation, and mentoring by AIR staff. This program provides direct op
portunities and choices for young Guatemalan students!
AIR has won several international awards for environmental and development work in Guatemala. In 2013, AIR won the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat’s Momentum for Change Award, presented in Warsaw, Poland. Then, in 2017, they
won the United Na
tions Development Programme’s Equator Prize for their work bettering the climate and indigenous communities.
Want to help? Donate here to help feed a family for the long-term, provide organic materials needed for regenerative farming, and prevent burns and lung disease with adequate tools!