Steep, seismic and lush, El Salvador is a unique treasure in the region. With rich volcanic soils, imposing volcanoes, an easily accessible Pacific coastline, cool mountainous highlands, and delicious coffee and cuisine, it provides visitors with tremendous diversity in an area smaller than the state of Massachusetts. Like its neighbors, El Salvador's tumultuous past has led to a complex and violent present. Class conflicts that have pervaded society since the 1930's
Deforestation is one of the most serious environmental problems facing El Salvador, with a high-rate of forest loss over the past half century. Between 1990 and 2010, El Salvador lost 23.9% of its natural forest cover, or around 900 square kilometers, putting a huge strain on its most important resources: soil, water, and trees. Logging, agriculture, and the use of fuelwood for cooking has led to increased risk of erosion and mudslides, which have claimed thousands of lives in recent years.
Our partner organization, Arboles y Agua para el Pueblo (AAP), addresses these issues through reforestation, producing over 28 hardwood and fruit tree species in their nurseries. Local residents use these trees for food, firewood, and shade.
In 2001, Trees, Water & People and AAP joined with the community members of El Coco in the Department of Santa Ana to develop a clean cookstove program. To reduce the fuelwood pressures on the area's forests, TWP introduced the Justa stove, a fuel-efficient, wood-burning clean cookstove with a chimney that vents smoke out of the home. The Justa stove reduces consumption of fuel wood by 50-75% compared to traditional cooking methods. Since 2001, the program has expanded into twelve additional communities.
We also work extensively with Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) in El Salvador. Together, we train these volunteers to build clean cookstoves in the communities they serve. Peace Corp Volunteers are able to share this knowledge with leaders in their community, who continue to build clean cookstoves years after the PCVs two-year term ends.