The project benefits about 50 families – 300 people – and the energy forest component will be expanded from Los Lagartos to other participating communities.
In Los Lagartos, population 5,000, the women work in their family gardens, where they grow vegetables with organic compost that they themselves produce. They also use it in their plots of corn and beans, staples of the Salvadoran diet, and on fruit trees in the forest.
The compost is helping change planting techniques in the area, in favour of the environment. And the women plan to start selling their organic fertiliser in the future, to earn funds for the project.
The forest is less than one hectare in size, but it has a special importance for the women in Los Lagartos because they have managed to regain control over the area and replant it, after a sugar mill destroyed it 10 years ago to plant sugar cane.
“For 10 years we have been fighting for this forest,” said Muñoz, a married mother of four. When she and the rest of the women saw that the forest was being cut down, they complained to the authorities and managed to rescue a small portion – but the damage was already done.
So they began to replant. They planted avocado, mango and nance (golden spoon) trees. And this year they began to grow plantains (cooking bananas), and trees that can be used for their wood, like conacaste (elephant ear tree).
“Now we don’t let anyone cut down our forest,” Álvarez said during a break in the planting work. “We exploit it ourselves, but only the dry branches and what is cut in the pruning process.”
The concept of energy forests followed here is not based on planting trees to cut them down later for lumber, but on the sustainable use of trees, by using dry branches as firewood, and planting fruit trees.