Here at EcoViva, the moment we have been anticipating for more than a year is almost upon us. In September, the Millennium Challenge Corporation and the United States government will most likely sign the contract to approve the MCC’s investment of $277 million dollars over a five year period in El Salvador.
In 2012, the MCC’s first compact in El Salvador came to a close, after 5 years of investment in the Northern zone of the country. The new compact will focus on spurring economic growth in the coastal zone- bringing with it the potential for momentous changes right where our work in El Salvador is focused in the Bay of Jiquilisco.
For the year that I have been working at EcoViva, the MCC and this coming compact have been in the back of our minds in all the activities we plan. We’ve learned as much as possible by talking with other organizations. We’ve met with government agencies in the United States and El Salvador and researched anything we could find connected with the compact in El Salvador- proposed projects, environmental safe guards, and released reports.
When something of this magnitude is headed your way, you prepare in any way you can. Information has proved difficult to track down but with a strong team of people in El Salvador and all over the United States, we have worked hard to learn about what is planned and the possible implications for the Bay of Jiquilisco.
We’ve gained support in Washington D.C. for the inclusion of our partner communities. We’ve highlighted the importance of the Bay of Jiquilisco and demanded the Salvadoran and U.S. governments take notice, leading to a proposed study on land use in the Bay of Jiquilisco, sponsored by the Salvadoran government. We’ve cultivated an informed and active coalition that is equipped to participate in the discussion, plans, and implementation of the compact over the next five years.
When I began to work on the ground for EcoViva last June, I expected to be involved in a powerful grassroots movement, mobilized around conservation, lasting change, and sustainable development. All of that proved to be true. What I didn’t expect was to work with that same organized base, as they raised their voices to influence and add to the long term conversation about economic development in El Salvador- a dialogue with far reaching effects and implications.
At times, it can be a confusing conversation to be part of. Many different actors and interests. Much speculation. More patience than I have. However, out of that confusion emerges the protagonists of the story- the local actors who will be directly impacted by each of these projects. Their voices, opinions, and experience take center stage. Despite the intricacies, they are taking a stand- calling for inclusive economic development that benefits them and protects the ecosystem they live in.
As the new era in foreign aid in El Salvador begins, we at EcoViva will continue our dialogue with local, national, and international actors, always advocating for inclusive economic development that champions the local farmers, fishermen and women, community leaders, and youth- the people we work with every day.
***Important Update: Tomorrow, local communities from all over the Bay of Jiquilisco will meet to discuss the future of the Bay of Jiquilsico- the challenges and contributions to coastal development. More information to follow later this week.