When tens of thousands of refugees returned to El Salvador in the early 1990s after ten years of exile, many former highland dwellers resettled in the more fertile agricultural lands near the Lower Lempa River. The area had virtually no infrastructure whatsoever: roads, electricity, schools, clinics and water systems were all scarce. Our organization was founded to help support local initiatives for peace and community self-sufficiency. One of our top challenges, since our beginnings, has been to help each community access clean, reliable sources of drinking water.
So far, thanks to a long-term collaborative effort between EcoViva, our local partners at the Mangrove Association, Engineers Without Borders, Rotary International, and Episcopal Relief and Development, over 14,000 people now have access to clean drinking water. These water systems have been built through the concerted labor of local residents working with EcoViva volunteers.
While we are proud of what we have accomplished in the last decade, we are also all to aware of what remains to be done, as thousands of residents in the communities surrounding the Bay of Jiquilisco continue to lack access to reliable sources of clean water. We will continue our work to expand water systems to the most remote village areas. This is one of the most effective means to improve local quality of life, create independence for women and girls, and reduce infant mortality.
Indoor toilets are almost nonexistent in rural El Salvador, as are septic systems and sewage treatment. Most families use a pit latrine or simply go out to their cornfields to do their business. In an area that is regularly overrun with floods, this results in a dangerous situation in which untreated human waste washes into all local waterways.
Composting latrines can be an effective solution to the problem of untreated human waste. Families who build their own latrines gain a safe, private and virtually odorless toilet which, when used properly, neutralizes and transforms human waste into a rich soil conditioner for plants and trees. With the Mangrove Association, EcoViva has helped local families build nearly 500 composting latrines in rural El Salvador since 2001.