EcoViva and partners convened conservationists from across El Salvador
Community groups from across El Salvador gathered November 8 for the Fourth National Mangrove Forum to discuss mangrove restoration policy and progress, sea turtle conservation, and community co-management of natural protected areas.
The event brought together around 350 people from community organizations, NGOs, academia, and government agencies, with some traveling from the far reaches of the country to participate. Representatives of community organizations from across the Salvadoran coast as well as from the municipal, state, and national governments attended. Several local and national media outlets covered the event.
The forum took place in the Community Center of Las Mesitas, a small village nestled in the mangrove forest of the Bay of Jiquilisco. The location was a departure from the previous three forums which took place in hotels in the capital city of San Salvador, far removed from the places and people being discussed. It was important to have the forum take place in the area where conservation work is being done and symbolized a sense of solidarity and recognition of community interests. The forum was also the first one to go “zero waste”: no single-use plastics were used for meals.
The forum began with the swearing-in ceremony of the new Bay of Jiquilisco Ramsar Committee. This co-management body brings decision-making authority and agency to the communities that are directly impacted by environmental legislation. Silvia de Larios, the Director of Ecosystems for the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (MARN), conducted the ceremony. The committee represents the voice of the community and forms the direct link with the Ministry of the Environment. The Committee must approve any actions taken by the government as it related to the wetland, giving them a powerful voice and representation at the decision-making table.
Following the ceremony, representatives from the many community groups spoke on a panel where they shared their experiences and knowledge. This was a very productive session and allowed community groups a platform from which to have their voices and opinions heard as well as an opportunity for networking and knowledge exchange across various regions and organizations. The forum ended with an institutional panel comprised of nonprofit organizations, where presentations emphasized the importance of community co-management in protected areas and discussed the future of the Mangrove Alliance, including the goal of declaring a National Mangrove Day in 2018.
The Fourth National Mangrove Forum in El Salvador gave us leaders an opportunity to learn about the importance of conserving mangrove ecosystems, and understand how negative and positive actions in the upper watershed affect the coastal zone. The forum allowed us to exchange community organizing models, like Community Development Associations and Environmental Committees, that favor the environment.
Douglas Alberto Sánchez
ROLA Member from the municipality of Berlín, department of Usulután