PHOTO CREDITS: SPENCER STONER, JILLIAN BAKER

Building a Green Local Economy

 

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Cooperatives and Regional Markets

EcoTourism

Sustainable Agriculture

The Diversified Agriculture Program was created by the Mangrove Association to help reduce hunger and malnutrition in southeast El Salvador by training farmers to adopt practices that increase yields, diversify production and improve soil quality. These same practices also protect the groundwater from chemical pollution and thereby protect the sensitive wetlands in the nearby Bay of Jiquilisco.

 

 

The program provides intensive training to 120 farmers for a 3-year period in permaculture, a sustainable agriculture practice which mimics the diversity, stability and resilience of natural ecosystems. Each farmer designs a ‘finca diversificada’ or diversified ranch integrating many different types of vegetables, grains, fruit trees, woodland trees, farm animals and fish ponds into a resilient and interdependent system. The program provides a small loan and direct technical assistance to each farmer over a 5-year period (three years of monthly training, two years of follow up) to help them implement a unique design which integrates many elements into one farm ecosystem.

 

 

Farmers from at least 20 local communities visit the Xinachtli (“Seed of Life”) Agricultural Center, seed bank and plant nursery to get free help with their farming problems and to purchase native and adapted seeds, organic vegetable seedlings and hardy tree saplings. Many of these products are available in the Green Credit program, in which farmers can receive the inputs for free so long as they replenish plant and seed stocks from their crops at the next harvest. In 2009, the ‘green’ credit program supplied 64,000 vegetable seedlings, over 1,000 fruit trees, and nearly 50 different species of native and hybridized plants of nutritional and medicinal value.

 

 

One block away from the Center is a one-acre demonstration field which acts as a showcase for the production of low-cost organic fertilizers and pesticides. Natural worm compost, mineral-enriched natural fertilizers, and pesticides derived from plants are made as alternative inputs to expensive synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. Last year, the Center and demonstration plot together produced almost 50,000 pounds of compost and 400 gallons of organic pesticides and fertilizers which were sold at affordable prices to farmers throughout the region. Local farmers also learn how to make these inputs themselves, increasing their self-sufficiency.

 

 

Watch our six-minute video on how sustainable agriculture practices protect the mangrove forests of the Bay of Jiquilisco.

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Shot and Edited by Spencer Stoner at www.spencerstoner.com
Narrated by Christopher Platt
Soundtrack by Bexar Bexar

Cooperatives and Regional Markets

Open-air farmers’ markets selling local products are common in most of Latin America, but not in Women in Local Marketthe Lower Lempa region of El Salvador, where small-scale farmers, until recently, almost exclusively produced corn. Instead, fruits and vegetables are brought in from Honduras by entrepreneurs in pick-up trucks who sell at prices most families cannot afford.

 

 

In addition to supporting farmers to diversify the products that are grown locally, our local partners are also helping them generate local markets for their products. The Mangrove Association is now sponsoring a quarterly open-air market in the village of Ciudad Romero to help strengthen the local economy. The most recent market brought together 28 vendors to sell products ranging from vegetables to tortillas to handicrafts.

 

 

Our local partners also run a separate social enterprise called Quirigua which currently sustains two cooperatives, a cashew-roasting cooperative and a shrimp farming cooperative. The cashew-roasting cooperative employs 16 women. The unshelled cashews are purchased in bulk from an organic cashew farmers’ association, processed, roasted and then sold to an intermediary. The shrimp cooperative produces low-impact artisanal shrimp on former salt flats. The cooperative produced over 100,000 kilos of shrimp in 2009, turning its first-ever profit. The shrimp operation is monitored by environmental scientists the University of El Salvador Marine Sciences Institute to ensure that its environmental impact is minimized.

EcoTourism

 

Through EcoViva's Community Empowerment Tours we are working with local communities to create a model for low-impact tourism in the Bay of Jiquilisco Protected Area. Visitors from the U.S. and elsewhere stay with local families, eat local food and contribute to the local economy. Local people earn income as drivers, guides, cooks and hosts. And just the fact that outsiders come to participate in community projects and appreciate of the beauty of local ecosystems helps encourage local efforts towards conservation. As the program grows, we seek to encourage the Ministry of Tourism to promote this initiative as a proven, sustainable alternative to resort-style tourist development.

 

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