The Diversified Agriculture Program was created by the Mangrove Association to help reduce hunger and malnutrition in southeast El Salvador by training farmers to adopt practices that increase yields, diversify production and improve soil quality. These same practices also protect the groundwater from chemical pollution and thereby protect the sensitive wetlands in the nearby Bay of Jiquilisco.
The program provides intensive training to 120 farmers for a 3-year period in permaculture, a sustainable agriculture practice which mimics the diversity, stability and resilience of natural ecosystems. Each farmer designs a ‘finca diversificada’ or diversified ranch integrating many different types of vegetables, grains, fruit trees, woodland trees, farm animals and fish ponds into a resilient and interdependent system. The program provides a small loan and direct technical assistance to each farmer over a 5-year period (three years of monthly training, two years of follow up) to help them implement a unique design which integrates many elements into one farm ecosystem.
Farmers from at least 20 local communities visit the Xinachtli (“Seed of Life”) Agricultural Center, seed bank and plant nursery to get free help with their farming problems and to purchase native and adapted seeds, organic vegetable seedlings and hardy tree saplings. Many of these products are available in the Green Credit program, in which farmers can receive the inputs for free so long as they replenish plant and seed stocks from their crops at the next harvest.
One block away from the Center is a one-acre demonstration field which acts as a showcase for the production of low-cost organic fertilizers and pesticides. Natural worm compost, mineral-enriched natural fertilizers, and pesticides derived from plants are made as alternative inputs to expensive synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. Local farmers also learn how to make these inputs themselves, increasing their self-sufficiency.
Watch our six-minute video on how sustainable agriculture practices protect the mangrove forests of the Bay of Jiquilisco.