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Production Capacity in the Bajo Lempa

Production Capacity in the Bajo Lempa

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Published by Melissa Summers

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Published by: Melissa Summers on Feb 07, 2012
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Agricultural Production Team Final Report:Production Capacity in the Bajo Lempa
Monterey Institute of International StudiesA Graduate School of Middlebury CollegeTeam Monterey El Salvador 5, 2011
Written and Prepared by
: Melissa Summers, Brandon Humphrey,Michael Atoria and Susana Valle &
 Edited by
: Adele Negro
Agricultural Production Team Final Report: Production Capacity in the Bajo Lempa 2
The spirit and resilience of the people of the Bajo Lempa were motivating factors for our work. We thank them for their support and courage.We extend a special thanks to Juan Luna, Wilfredo Hernandez, Leonides Hernandez,Chema Argueta, LoLo, Cleto Marquez, and Mario Martinez for sharing their knowledgeand connecting us with the local communities. Without this information, mediation, andtransportation our efforts would not have come to fruition. La Coordinadora staff,including Herman and Cruz, were essential to accommodating our work needs. Our fellow Team Monterey 5 (TM5) members selflessly supported us, specifically Adele Negro and Antonio Armendáriz with their translation and interpretation skills.In addition we would also like to thank our host families, as they provided us withhousing and delicious El Salvadoran food. Through them we were able to learn moreabout the people and culture of Ciudad Romero. Living with our host families was a great part of the experience.
Executive Summary
Recent production efforts in the Bajo Lempa, conducted by Asociación Mangle and LaCoordinadora, have focused on the goal of achieving food sovereignty for the local populace. In order to ascertain current production capabilities and identify areas of  potential growth, Asociación Mangle has identified the necessity for a diagnostic tool togather baseline data and measure changes in production practices and capacitiesstemming from project initiatives and other influencing factors. The TM5 ProductionTeam’s mission in January 2011 focused on the creation of this diagnostic tool and thecapacity building necessary for Asociación Mangle’s Production Program to administer and analyze such a tool. Creation of the survey involved holding meetings with membersof Asociación Mangle’s production staff to identify key information needs, constructunbiased survey questions (utilizing both quantitative and qualitative formats), and initial pilot testing in order to ensure appropriate communication in Spanish, and eliminateredundant and/or leading questions. Following completion of the survey, the ProductionTeam held a workshop with members of Asociación Mangle’s Production staff in order to demonstrate the use of the survey and analysis of collected data.
The staff of Asociación Mangle was essential to gathering the background informationfor this report. Principal among the sources of information were Production Programchief agronomist Juan Luna, and Production Program assistant agronomists LeonidesHernández and Wilfredo Herández.As has been noted in earlier Team Monterey reports, the people of the Bajo Lempa havefaced significant challenges in establishing and developing communities where none had
Agricultural Production Team Final Report: Production Capacity in the Bajo Lempa 3 previously existed. The majority of the population consists of families who had left ElSalvador during the civil war and were later repatriated to the Bajo Lempa area. LaCoordinadora and Asociación Mangle were created to develop capacity and sustainefforts to improve the lives of the people of the area and protect their vulnerableenvironment.Agricultural production is one of the main areas of focus for Asociación Mangle. It is afundamental premise of the organization that enabling people to feed themselves is one of the basic tenets of development. However, in this area, many challenges have beenencountered. Foremost among them is the fact that the Bajo Lempa is a climaticallyvolatile area. Due to its geographic location in the flood banks of the Lempa River, thearea faces long periods of both drought and seasonal flooding. The flooding is further exacerbated by the occasional opening of the 15
of September Dam on the LempaRiver, a measure intended to protect communities upriver but which wreaks havoc on thecommunities downstream.In addition, the area of the Bajo Lempa faces many challenges concerning human capitalin agriculture. Due to the fact that the majority of the local inhabitants are relativelyrecent transplants, there is little historical experience in successful food production in thisspecific area.
Like many communities of displaced and repatriated populationsthroughout the world, there is minimal communal memory concerning best practices,traditional vocations, and other activities.Current practices have done little to move agricultural production past the point of simplesustenance farming. Lack of crop diversity, lack of access to financial resources, use of chemical fertilizers, and a general deficiency in agricultural knowledge have created anunsustainable and unpredictable production output in the area. Asociación Mangle has been working diligently to alleviate many of these problems. Most of the localhouseholds possess home gardens of some size and shape, and often rent out or own aseparate parcel where basic crops including corn, sorghum, and sugar cane are grown.However, despite their best efforts, many people cannot move past sustenance farmingand continue to be greatly affected by natural and economic adversity.Thus, with the understanding that these problems, worsened by government inaction andneglect, are impeding overall development of the Bajo Lempa, Asociación Mangle hashighlighted food sovereignty as one of its main long-term objectives. In working towardsits attainment, Mangle strives to support the people of its constituent communities to become less reliant on non-local sources of agricultural products, generate and retainincome in the community, and create a market environment in which people can dependon consistent sources of locally-produced food.In January of 2009, the work of Team Monterey 3 highlighted some key barriers toachieving this objective. Communities within the Bajo Lempa lack transportation to bringtheir goods, not to mention themselves, back and forth from the market and other points
Asociación Mangle described the Bajo Lempa as predominantly tropical forest before it was settled bythose displaced by the civil war. The land has never been used for agricultural purposes in modern times.

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