The loss of El Salvador’s fertile soil is at a critical juncture. The tiny Central American country is one of the most deforested countries in the hemisphere. Less than 5% of its natural forests are intact. Unsustainable farming practices have left three-quarters of its farmland so depleted it can’t retain water and vital nutrients. As a result, roughly 400,000 small farmers are struggling to grow enough food to feed their families and earn a decent living.
Reversing this trend requires a comprehensive approach that goes beyond targeting individual farmers. For systemic change to happen, adoption across an entire ecosystem is necessary.
This is the goal of the Agriculture Landscape Restoration Initiative, known in Central America as Raíces Ahuachapán. Created in 2018 and funded by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, the 12-year project is putting the innovative water-smart agriculture practices of ASA to work to transform a swath of deteriorated farming landscape—about 30,000 acres—in El Salvador’s western department of Ahuachapán. With ASA’s proven focus on soil and water management, Racies Ahuachapán works to increase crop productivity and boost the livelihoods of farm families while protecting communal water supplies.
The Raíces Ahuachapán program is implemented with 4 fundamental lines of action:
Restore the agricultural landscape
We’re promoting water-smart agriculture practices and environmental restoration across the landscape to restore ecosystem services, increase vegetative production (crops, pastures, and forests), and ultimately improve water production.
Build a robust network of technical assistance providers
Working with the local and national government, agriculture development organizations and others, we’re helping to create a robust network of agriculture extension workers who can motivate and train farmers to implement water-smart agriculture on their farms.
Strengthen local capacity for agriculture landscape planning
Through a series of grants that fund community development projects, we’re empowering local actors to work together to identify the challenges in their communities and propose solutions.
Create opportunities for youth
The project positions young people to become professionals and leaders who share our goal of transforming the approach to agriculture across the region by providing formal education, on-the-job training, and entrepreneurship.
The following four approaches and six principles are fundamental to our success:
|Four approaches||Six principles|
|1. Prioritize cover crops and soil fertility management through water-smart agriculture.
2. Restore water resources through sustainable agriculture and environmental conservation practices.
3. Rejuvenate the landscape and engage youth at every stage and level of the effort.
4. Build a dynamic agriculture economy based on principles of a social economy.
|1. Keep it simple.
2. Human dignity and empowerment.
3. Cultivate a shared vision for agricultural landscape restoration.
4. Work at scale, in multiple dimensions.
5. Co-investment and co-responsibility with multiple factors.
6. Continuous learning and agility.
Caritas Santa Ana – a charitable organization with extensive experience and social capital in the area.
PRISMA – a regional foundation for dialogue and research on development and the environment.
Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT ) – a research center that forms part of the CGIAR system.