María Luz Rodríguez stands next to her solar oven, in which she cooked lasagne in the village of El Salamar in the municipality of San Luis La Herradura. In this region in the south of El Salvador, efforts are being made to implement environmental measures to ensure the sustainable use of natural resources. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala / IPSSAN LUIS LA HERRADURA, El Salvador, April 14 (IPS) – A number of coastal communities in El Salvador are committed to sustainable development as a way of life that does not overuse natural resources that have been depleted by years of government neglect and a lack of environmental awareness through the use of tools ranging from organic cooking stoves to reforestation of mangroves.
“We have learned to live better with the environment, to use it, but without degrading it, especially the mangroves. Without the mangroves there would be no fish in the wetlands,” said Daniel Mercado, president of the local development committee in San Luis La Herradura IPS.
The coastal villages of this and other surrounding communities are located in the Estero de Jaltepeque, a complex ecosystem that is home to a variety of animal and plant species in mangroves, bodies of water, and wetlands.
El Estero is a nature reserve whose watershed covers 934 square kilometers in the coastal region of the Central Department of La Paz in this Central American country with 6.8 million inhabitants.
Around 600 families in these communities received support in promoting a sustainable development model that has produced good results. The investment of more than $ 400,000 came from the Global Environment Facility’s (GEF) Small Grants program.
Many of these people now use environmentally friendly stoves such as rocket stoves: round stoves that use very little wood and produce little smoke.
In addition, the firewood comes from living fences made from Gliricidia trees (Gliricidia sepium), which provide firewood and thus protect the mangroves from those looking for fuel.
The addition to the rocket furnace is the so-called magic furnace, a circular box made of polystyrene, a material that stores heat.
Once the soup or stew has cooked on the stove, the pot is placed in a magic stove and covered, and the cooking is complete. This saves both wood and time, as people can do other tasks in the meantime.
Solar ovens have also been introduced, which consist of a box with a lid that acts as a mirror and directs sunlight into the interior and is covered with metal sheets.
Other components of the project, which ended in 2018, are the implementation of sustainable agriculture and fisheries.
The beneficiaries had to plant mangroves in order to receive support from the program. As a result, 500 hectares of mangroves have been preserved or restored, and sustainable practices have been implemented on 300 hectares of marine and terrestrial ecosystems.
However, preserving the mangroves is still a challenge as people from other communities come to cut the trees and government agencies are doing little to prevent it, Mercado said.
In any case, sustainable development can be tasted in foods cooked on ecological ovens and in other initiatives being carried out along the Pacific coast of this small Central American nation, where there is a growing awareness of the need for sustainable development among the population.
For more information, check out this story: Recipes with a taste of sustainable development on the El Salvador coast.
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