As the climate changes, so do mindsets

Communities in El Salvador’s Dry Corridor learn to protect the environment to survive

Norha Restrepo
Jul 18, 2018 · 3 min read
Fertilizing pine trees in a community nursery. Photo: WFP/Rocío Franco.

Learning to love the environment

Esperanza Vigil began to notice changes in the climate four years ago, the last time her community had a normal winter. Since then, the blooming times of the trees have changed and storms have become more common in the municipality of Joateca, in the department of Morazán, El Salvador. “You can tell the weather has lost its usual balance,” she says: “It’s like it is all distorted.”

In this area, where people have to work hard every day to feed themselves, they have realized that their ability to survive depends on how well they protect the environment.

“We know that we can’t live without oxygen. If we didn’t have the oxygen produced by trees, how could we live?” said Esperanza.

In Esperanza’s village, people used to cut trees — now they plant them in a community garden, as part of a project that promotes reforestation and resilience to climate change. They have changed their mindset.

“Our minds are more awake,” explains Esperanza. This is a new commitment for them, and they feel it is worth the effort. “Trees help us save water and give us pure air to breathe,” she says. “And their fruits are good to eat.”

“If we didn’t have the oxygen produced by trees, how could we live?”

“We have to love the environment because we depend on it,” adds Esperanza.

Sweating for a cause

“Have you noticed how sweaty I am?” says Marielos Segovia, as she traces the lines of her cheeks with her fingers. “In the past, the climate didn’t feel like this in the area. It was cooler.”

Marielos, a 24-year-old from the eastern part of the department of Usulután, explains that “the younger ones, especially the children, are noticing the changes and they say that it’s too hot.”

The municipality of San Francisco Javier, where Marielos lives, has high poverty rates and the people’s main concern is putting food on the table. They grow maize and beans, and use chemical fertilizers. As head of the Environment Unit at the municipality, Marielos’ job is to raise awareness among the community. “This is a job that we all have to do together, because we are already experiencing the changes in the climate.”

“If we don’t do anything, the changes will be more abrupt and faster”

Since it can be difficult to change the mindset of some local farmers, who have been set in their ways for decades, Marielos also turns to schoolchildren, explaining to them the importance of planting trees, preserving water and using organic products.

Marielos´ advocacy efforts are driven by her awareness that “if we don’t do anything, the changes in the climate will be more abrupt and faster.”

Thanks to the support of the European Union, the World Food Programme (WFP) works to build resilience and to ensure the livelihoods in the long term for 900 Salvadoran families in the Dry Corridor.

This piece is part of a story series produced by WFP and the United Nations Social Media team.

Learn more more about El Niño Response in the Dry Corridor of Central America (PRO-ACT)

World Food Programme Insight

Insight by The World Food Programme

World Food Programme Insight

Insight by The World Food Programme

Norha Restrepo

Written by

Comunicadora Regional del WFP para América Latina y el Caribe / WFP Regional Communications Officer for Latin America and the Caribbean

World Food Programme Insight

Insight by The World Food Programme