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Snake Branch

Holiday Recipe: Champurrado (Mexican Spiced Hot Chocolate)

From our kitchen to yours, let this traditional Mexican drink warm you up on a cold winter day!

Champurrado (Mexican hot chocolate)

This thick hot chocolate is delicious served with pan dulce, Mexican sweet rolls


  • 4 cups of milk
  • 2 cups of warm water
  • 1 3-oz disk of Mexican Chocolate (we recommend Somerville, MA-based Taza Chocolate!)
  • 6 oz. piloncillo, whole cane sugar, or dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup of masa harina (corn flour)
  • 2 sticks of Mexican cinnamon
  • 1 star anise (optional)


In a large pot, whisk the masa harina into the warm water until thoroughly combined. Add milk, chocolate, piloncillo or sugar, and anise (if using). Let simmer over low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally with a whisk (or a traditional molinillo!), until your champurrado has thickened to the consistency of gravy. Serve hot with pan dulce, and enjoy!

Serves 6-8.

We originally shared this recipe in our November 2014 eNews. Read the stories here!

You’re Invited! Lunchtime Insights on Community Development in Conservation

FYI for our Boston-area community: You’re invited to a free event!

Lunchtime Insights on the Role of Community Development in Conservation:
A Case of Research and Practice in Chiapas, Mexico

Monday, Sept 29
12:00 – 1:00 PM
Next Mile Project
Two Atlantic Ave, 4th Floor, Boston, MA 02110

Dr. Tuyeni Mwampamba joins EcoLogic on September 29!

Dr. Tuyeni Mwampamba will join EcoLogic to share lunchtime insights on September 29!

Alongside the Next Mile Project and the Boston Network for International Development, EcoLogic would like to invite you to a lunchtime learning event at the Next Mile Project’s offices on Boston’s waterfront to learn about the role of rural communities in the management of tropical forests. The conversation, led by Dr. Tuyeni Mwampamba, will focus on Dr. Mwampamba’s research on the connection between community development and sustainable forest management.

Dr. Mwampamba will be visiting Boston from Mexico, where she is an associate research professor at the Center for Ecosystems Research (CIEco) at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). Her research in Mexico and in her home country of Tanzania has focused on increasing the role of communities in conservation, forest management, and payments for ecosystem services (PES) programs. She will share her experiences and findings from the field in both Latin America and Africa.

Dr. Mwampamba’s collaboration and support has been fundamental to EcoLogic’s work on our CarbonPlus project in the Lacandón Jungle in Chiapas, Mexico, which is using this integrated approach to conservation and community development. EcoLogic has been collaborating with three indigenous communities in the region since 2011 to design and implement a project that will provide community members with direct economic benefits in the form of carbon credits for avoiding deforestation.

RSVP now!

Big Green Alums: Give a Rouse to Making Green Development Stick

by Dave Kramer and Barbara Vallarino

Resilience. It certainly wasn’t the first word we ever uttered at Dartmouth as very green undergraduates, but it defined our time there in different ways. From the survival lessons brutally served up by first New Hampshire winters to the taste of a whole new level of academic rigor and competition, Dartmouth has a way of forcing people to step up to the plate.

EcoLogic at Dartmouth's Sustainability Cafe!

EcoLogic at Dartmouth’s Sustainability Cafe!

We recently had a chance to return to Dartmouth and rise to the occasion. Invited to return as “wise alums” and facilitate a conversation with undergraduates in an environmental studies class and a general audience in the Sustainability Solutions Cafe, we spoke about what we believe it takes to make conservation stick –and to be truly sustainable, carried forward by the exemplary rural communities with whom EcoLogic works in Latin America.

Read more about how EcoLogic’s Dartmouth alums are working with a new generation of students to make green development stick!

“Jwal sulul li’be!” The Muddy Path to Agri-cultural Insights

by Anne Elise Stratton

Anne Elise with EcoLogic field technicians & colleagues in Sarstún

Anne Elise (center) with EcoLogic field technicians José Domingo Caal (right) and Samuel Coc (far right), and friends and colleagues in Sarstún

Anne Elise Stratton is working as a field intern for EcoLogic this summer in the Sarstún region of Guatemala, where she is also pursuing research about seed selection and exchange in the area. She is currently a rising senior at Tufts University, where she is pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Biology and Environmental Studies with a focus on food systems.

The Sarstún River forms part of the border between eastern Guatemala and southern Belize. The area is home to rich biodiversity and natural resources, but also hosts some of the highest rates of poverty in Central America. On the Guatemalan side of the river, EcoLogic is working with our local partner, the Mayan Association for Well-Being in the Sarstún Region (APROSARSTUN), to conserve the area’s natural resources and also improve quality of life for local communities. APROSARSTUN is a community organization led by local Maya K’ekchi’ youth who graduated from the local Ak’Tenamit School, and has a membership of more than 40 young people. Anne Elise’s research will help inform EcoLogic and APROSARTUN’s work on sustainable subsistence farming in the area.

My workday is never without a touch of adventure here in Sarstún, a tropical lowland region of eastern Guatemala. I divide the typical week between trips out to rural villages and days at the office of APROSARSTUN, EcoLogic’s local partner in the region.

Read more about what Anne Elise is learning in the field in Sarstún!

In Belize: The Rule of Law or the Rule of Money and the Jungle?

by Maura Fitzgerald
This article about SATIIM, EcoLogic’s local partner in Belize, was originally posted on Maura Fitzgerald’s blog, Notes From Toledo.

Greg Ch'oc speaks in Belize

Greg Ch’oc, EcoLogic Board Member and Executive Director of SATIIM, speaks at the Machaca Summit in Belize. (Photo credit: Maura Fitzgerald)

On the morning of May 20, over a hundred Maya villagers gathered at a rural community center in southern Belize. Down from repurposed old American school buses they stepped: men in woven belts and rubber boots speckled with earth; women in long skirts and flip flops, toting babies in slings. In other villages that day, the men were planting corn, but here in Machaca, the villagers waited—stern-faced, patiently—to write their names or plant an inked thumb in a ledger. They came to pose a question, simple but stark: would their government, and the American oil company it harbored, “submit itself to the rule of law … [or to] the rule of money and the jungle”?

Read more about the struggle to protect Sarstoon Temash National Park from oil drilling.

People-Powered Conservation is Protecting Forests and Improving Lives in Southern Mexico


Abelino Flores Molina is the Community Coordinator for our CarbonPlus program in Chiapas in southern Mexico. He has been collaborating with EcoLogic on our Lacandón rainforest carbon project since fall 2012. Originally from Chiapas, he is a doctoral candidate of social anthropology and indigenous studies at the Ibero-American Center for Postgraduate Studies and the Intercultural University of Chiapas. In this interview, Flores shares insights about his work in the Lacandón rainforest, his experience with EcoLogic, and his hopes and dreams for the future of CarbonPlus.

Abelino Flores, CarbonPlus coordinator in Mexico

Dr. Abelino Flores Molina (left) is the Community Coordinator for EcoLogic’s CarbonPlus program in Chiapas, Mexico

When did you start working with EcoLogic?

I met Andrea Savage, EcoLogic’s CarbonPlus program manager, in 2012, and we talked about developing a REDD+ project in the area.

We started by planning participatory workshops for the three indigenous communities in the Lacandón rainforest—the Lacandónes, the Choles, and the Tzeltales. We wanted these workshops to address questions both about REDD+ and climate change, because they are so interconnected. And the communities had very little accurate information about these concepts.

What do you like best about working with EcoLogic?

EcoLogic’s work represents a connection between three fundamental issues I’m very interested in: culture, environment, and development. I think they cannot be separated.

What have been the CarbonPlus project’s greatest successes so far?

Working in Chiapas can be challenging at times, but just the fact that EcoLogic is here working on the ground with the communities is a major breakthrough. In the past, the government and other conservation organizations have worked in this area with a top-down approach that has not included local communities, so people have developed some mistrust of outside initiatives. EcoLogic has such a good relationship with the people here because we understand that community participation is crucial.

What is your vision for the future of the area?

Even though we are starting from such a tiny grain of sand, I believe that we will be able to conserve the Lacandón rainforest, which is such an important place. We may have very few resources, but we have such big ideas!

I want this area, which is not only a carbon reservoir but also a source of many important natural resources, to be managed cooperatively with the indigenous communities. And I think we could create a model for conservation and development that could serve as an example for others. This is a dream I have always had.

This interview was translated from Spanish and has been edited for length and clarity.

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Climbing up the Waterfall, My EcoLogic Metaphor

In November 2013, I went to La Chinantla, Oaxaca to visit one of EcoLogic’s newest project sites. As a part of the development team, gaining first-hand knowledge of EcoLogic’s work is important to effectively represent our work in funding proposals and other materials. I traveled with our executive director, Barbara Vallarino, and our regional program director, Gabriela González. I was also excited to meet EcoLogic’s Mexico program officer, Marco Acevedo, in person for the first time.

ride up the papaloapan

That’s Barbara on the left, me in the middle, and Gaby on the right.

When we arrived in La Chinantla, we went directly to an assembly hall where about 50 local community members, primarily indigenous people (mostly men), waited to greet us. They wanted to hear from us about the work that EcoLogic would be carrying out in their communities, in partnership with a local community-based organization, the Regional Environmental Collaborative for the Chinantla Region of Oaxaca (FARCO). After brief introductions and an overview of EcoLogic’s mission and work, a community leader, Alonso Martínez Yescas, invited everyone to his farm for Cochinita a la Cubana (Cuban style pork).

Read more about Margaret’s waterfall adventure in Oaxaca!

Sculpture Mural in Totonicapan’s Thermal Baths

Since 2009, EcoLogic has welcomed ArtCorps fellows to our project sites in Guatemala and Honduras. Currently, EcoLogic is host to ArtCorps Fellow Isabel Carrió at our Forest of the Water Spirit project in Totonicapan, Guatemala. The people of Totonicapan are predominantly indigenous K’iche’, whose long history of successful natural resource management has been in decline. For the past two years Isabel has been working with us, our local partner the traditional governing body of Totonicapan the 48 Cantons, and citizens in the area, using art to preserve traditional practices of the K’iche’ people. This blog post was originally written for

A mural made from clay bas-reliefs by women artisans and young environmentalists under Isabel’s guidance will soon decorate the exterior walls of the historic public baths in Totonicapan.

Public-Baths_Isabel-Carrio_2Don Juan, the community potter, lets me know the clay is ready to be molded. And so we carry the clay lumps to the library. Women artisans, high school students and children from Xolsacmalja library will work on this clay.


Reflections on Being a Kinship Fellow

Earlier this year, Andrea Savage, EcoLogic’s CarbonPlus Program Manager, was selected as one of the 2013 Kinship Conservation Fellows. Andrea and the rest of this year’s Fellows met for a month this summer in Bellingham, Washington as part of the Kinship program’s in-residence instruction in market-based solutions for environmental issues. This post was originally written and posted as part of a series for The Kinship Lens.

I breathed a sigh of relief as Kinship Fellows Director Nigel Asquith introduced the program during my first week as a Fellow, by explaining that the following month would not give us a “one-size fits all” recipe that miraculously pops out the perfect market financed conservation project. You see, I currently spend the majority of my time in the world of REDD+ (Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Forest Degradation)—a mechanism to help poor, rainforest communities or countries conserve their forests by selling carbon offsets. Like many conservation practitioners, I have been to far too many conferences and bombarded with countless manuals, standards, and guidelines that walk you through the technical steps of building a REDD+ project modeled on a project far from my region of work. While great at highlighting the desired end result, all of these guidelines do little to prepare you for the majority of the bumps and derailments that occur when trying to conserve the environment.


Profile: Greg Ch’oc

Gregory Ch’oc: Founder and executive director of the Sarstoon-Temash Institute for Indigenous Management in Southern Belize. Friend of EcoLogic since 1997. Board member since 2010.

Greg Ch'oc
Tell us about your background.

I’m K’ekchi’ Maya and was born on the Rio Grande Maya Reservation, but lived most of my life here in Punta Gorda. After high school, I spent two years in the US at the College of Santa Fe in New Mexico studying computer science. I came back to Belize and taught at the local high school for a couple of years, and then, in 1994, I won a scholarship to study for a year abroad and went to the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College at the University of Regina in Canada. It was there I was exposed to the international indigenous movement.

The curriculum included classes that dealt with indigenous peoples’ struggles at the global level. I had heard of an international movement while in Punta Gorda, but I wasn’t aware of the intensity at the global level. It was amazing to see there was a unified position, and it gave me a framework for looking at what was happening in Belize at the time. Land was being expropriated, oil companies and mining companies were granted concessions on the land of indigenous people. These companies weren’t being policed, and they destroyed our land. I recognized then that what we experience in Belize is not an isolated occurrence.

That understanding really motivated me when I came back to Belize, and I joined the K’ekchi’ council. I was elected president of the council in 1998.

How did you find out about EcoLogic?

I first heard of EcoLogic when I met Shaun Paul, the founding director, in 1996 at a meeting of various groups working to protect the Colombia management reserve from a Malaysian logging company that was trying to clear-cut the jungle. Shaun took an interest in the Sarstoon Temash National Park Steering Committee (STNPSC)—what later became the Sarstoon-Temash Institute for Indigenous Management, or SATIIM—and EcoLogic began helping us in very valuable and concrete ways that no other group was doing at the time.

How was your experience with EcoLogic different than with other organizations?

EcoLogic provides hands-on support. In my experience, I have seen other organizations come in and ask, “How is the project going? What are the challenges? How can we help?” But they won’t help us do things. We were a new organization and didn’t know a lot of the nitty-gritty aspects of development work, and EcoLogic helped us figure out how to do many different things. For example, I didn’t know how to contract with consultants—how to determine costs or how you reflect them in budgets for a funder. I didn’t know what information was needed. We had to conduct assessments of soil, geology, and hydrology. We needed to do a socio-economic assessment and to look at traditional knowledge and document it. EcoLogic helped us figure out what we needed to do and showed us how to do it.

Why did you decide to join the EcoLogic board of directors?

Shaun Paul, EcoLogic’s co-founder and former Executive Director, asked me to. He felt that I would contribute a valuable perspective, having 15 years of experience as an indigenous leader and working very directly on the problems that EcoLogic works to solve. North American organizations often make assumptions without realizing it. For example, a “protected area” is something largely incomprehensible to indigenous people. Our culture doesn’t have the concept of conservation the way western societies do. We have what we call “sacred sites.” We are part and parcel of the ecosystem where we live. We use it sustainably—and we want it to be used sustainably by others. We don’t see ourselves as separate. Both must thrive together.

Some Gifts Don’t Come Wrapped

Last spring, 15-year-old Rebecca Grossman went to Guatemala with her father, Dan. There, they joined Gabriela “Gaby” Gonzalez, EcoLogic’s Regional Program Director, and Daniel Hererra, EcoLogic’s former Program Officer for the country, on a four day tour of EcoLogic’s work at our Indigenous Peoples for Thriving Ecosystems site in northern Guatemala. Dan was kind enough to donate his skills as a multimedia audio and video producer for documenting the trip. Here are some of Rebecca’s observations from this, her first time visiting a country in Latin America.

“Why would you want to go to Guatemala?,” a classmate asked as we picked up our things and filed out of the humid classroom and on to our next class. I contemplated the question for a minute, before realizing that I didn’t really have a reason. My dad was the one to decide it would be a good experience for me to join him. I didn’t even know if I really wanted to go.

The next morning, I was awakened by my mom at 4 A.M. for the early flight. Groggy and grumpy, I got my things together and went out to the car. Why did I go along with this? A lump started to form in my throat. I felt overwhelmed and scared. My mom looked at me in the rear-view mirror, as tears starting to fill my eyes. “You’re going to learn so much, and you’ll have lots of fun,” she offered. This was supposed to be my birthday trip—I didn’t want it to be a learning experience! “I want a new birthday present,” I mumbled with tears rolling down my face. “OK, we can get you something when you get back, if that’s what you want,” my mom said calmly. I crossed my arms and sniffled.


Lulo, Landscapes, and Lotsa Learning

I hadn’t been to Colombia alone before since 2001. My first time there was in the late 90’s, and that trip was pretty much a blind leap into adventure and the unknown—this time was certainly going to be different. I now know the country and what to expect, so I did what I always do when I go there: I drank my body weight in lulo juice. Lulo is a unique fruit found only in the northern Andes. It’s green through and through. Even a tiny glass of the stuff is loaded with impact beyond anything you’d expect: a tart flavor, bubbling over with antioxidants, and smile-inducing. In fact, lulo juice reminds me a lot of EcoLogic.

My typical afternoon meal with two wonderful glasses of lulo juice.

My typical afternoon meal with two wonderful glasses of lulo juice.

It was precisely for this lulo juice, I mean, love of EcoLogic’s work that I made my pilgrimage back to Colombia. I was attending a conference on capacity building in conservation. I wanted to learn about new ways that project evaluation can be streamlined and communication improved between project teams and communities. This conference was a chance to think long-term and get ahead of the curve. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the conference itself (conferences can be hit or miss), but I knew I’d be able to gain inspiration from other attendees, not to mention the gorgeous colonial town of Villa de Leyva, Colombia, which lies about four hours from Bogotá.


Common Commute

The purpose of our trip was simple: Demarcate the watershed found at the Quebrada Barro Colorado in southern Panama. The trip itself was much more complicated.

The Quebrada Barro Colorado is located in Punta Patiño Nature Reserve deep in the Darién, Panama. This reserve is remote, private, and administered by the National Association for the Conservation of Nature (ANCON), a private nonprofit organization founded in Panama. I was headed there with Eric Lorenzo and Humberto Tamayo of ANCON.


That’s me on the left and my travelling companions Eric and Humberto.

Our journey started in Panama City, where we took a three hour car ride to the city of Metetí. There we changed routes and hopped over to Puerto Quimba along the coast, about 12 miles west. We boarded a boat and prepared for travel through the estuary that would eventually bring us to the community of Mogué. The entire trip was scheduled around high tide in order to get out of the mouth of the estuary. We timed it right and the entire boat ride took about an hour and a half. The sights from the boat were overwhelming in their beauty. You have mangroves on either side of you, seabirds flying overhead and, if you’re lucky, a group of dolphins might escort you for part of the way. The ride filled me with that sense of freedom that only nature can bring.


Under the Weather in Upper Guatemala

¡Buenos días!

Every morning I wake up in Huehuetenango, Guatemala, to the blue mountains of the Cuchumatanes that rise more than 2 miles above sea level. This morning, the temperature in the city is around 5 ° C (40°F). Here, January is typically the coldest month of the year and yet I am travelling from Huehuetenango to the upper parts of the Cuchumatanes Mountains, where nighttime and early morning temperatures can dip even lower, often below freezing.

Passing through the towns of San Juan Ixcoy, Soloma, Santa Eulalia, and San Mateo Ixtatán along the way I pass through fog, heavy rain, and then a little drizzle. Eventually, I arrive at the city of Barillas where it is no drier. In fact, it rains here about 11 months out of the year.


A local villager is all smiles in the early morning fog.

The weather here in northern Guatemala is predictably unpredictable. Sometimes, on days without a cloud in the sky, I’ll  suddenly be in the middle of a heavy downpour. Other times, there will be sunshine day after day and only a light rain at night. It can make travel plans and deciding what to wear pretty difficult.


Mighty Mexican Mangroves

Hola Friends!

I recently visited the Papaloapan River Wetlands with Pronatura Veracruz, a regional nonprofit in Mexico that partners with EcoLogic. We were meeting to discuss mangrove conservation. Mangroves can refer to salt-water wetlands or to the types of salt-hardy tree species that live there. Mangroves protect coastlines from erosion by wind and waves. They are also home to hundreds of species of fish, crabs, shrimp, and other shellfish (some of which are very tasty!). It was an enriching day and full of surprises.

Prior to the visit, I had the pleasure of talking to some fishermen on the Papaloapan River in Tlacotalpan, Veracruz and got their perspective on the changes that the river has suffered over the years and how it has affected them.


Green and Lean

Here at EcoLogic we have water projects, we have reforestation projects, we have carbon projects. But guess what? I’m going to go ahead and let you know that I have a favorite. That’s right. Out of all of our programs – agroforestry is my favorite.

Why? Glad you asked. It’s because I’m cheap. Wait, let me explain.

For starters, it’s because our agroforestry program tackles so many issues simultaneously – soil quality, forest cover, food security, and climate change. But the real reason that gets me is – and I’ll have to reveal a little secret – is that it just makes economic sense. And that’s extremely important if you want to get farmers to actually make changes to the status quo. The secret I mentioned is that I’m one of those environmentalists that’s into conservation primarily for economic reasons. Don’t get me wrong, I like animals, beautiful landscapes, and I understand the critical importance of healthy ecosystems in keeping us all healthy, but I really love it when doing something “green” also impacts my bottom line. For example, using less energy means paying a smaller bill. Riding your bike to work means not buying a monthly subway pass. I drive a car that runs on used vegetable oil for Pete’s sake! Yeah, my fuel is “green,” but it’s also free!


Thank you from EcoLogic

We are so grateful to have the commitment of people like you to help us continue our mission and protect the health of the planet and its people.


On behalf of all of us at EcoLogic and the rural communities we serve in Mexico and Central America, we wish you a happy and healthy holiday.

A Bridge Over Troubled Waters

Conserving natural resources is one of the most important things to do and advocate for in life. However, when one wishes to balance the conservation of nature and the needs of a community ’s livelihood, the solutions may not be simple and the approach cannot be uncompromising — especially when there is no alternative source of income for most of the poor coastal communities other than that derived from available natural resources. EcoLogic’s work in the trans-boundary area of Sarstun and Amatique Bay is in some ways a typical situation, but it is even more challenging because there are two communities with distinct social, cultural, and political identities, in this case Belizeans and Guatemalans.

A busy sea 

It was a typical maritime trip across the Belizean and Guatemalan border, sailing on a boat rented from a local fisherman known as Wicho. Wicho is a Guatemalan national but grew up on the Belizean Coast, and so he is fluent in English and Spanish.


Adventures in Agroforestry, Part 2

Since early June 2012, two recent Harvard University graduates, Julian Moll-Rocek and Janie D’Ambrosia, have been visiting EcoLogic’s agroforestry plots in Guatemala to observe, gather data, and provide “tips and tricks” to our EcoLogic field technicians and community farmers on ways to measure and track the progress of their agroforestry efforts. 

Hi again,

It’s Janie this time. The last time we wrote Julian and I had just arrived in Ak’Tenamit, a vocational boarding school composed largely of students from the K’ekchi’ Mayan communities of the Sarstun region of Guatemala. We received an incredibly warm welcome from APROSARSTUN, an NGO located on the Ak’Tenamit campus and EcoLogic’s partner on the ground, and we were finally able to meet the two students with whom we would be working for the next two months. The students, Roland and Matteo, are both in their sixth and final year at Ak’tenamit, and working with us is how they will complete their “practica” — a two month long field project required to graduate.


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