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Ecological Cookstoves Help Preserve El Salvador’s Coastal Mangroves

SAN LUIS LA HERRADURA, El Salvador, Apr 14 2021 (IPS) - A score of coastal communities in El Salvador are staking their bets on sustainable development as a form of life that does not overexploit natural resources diminished by years of government neglect and a lack of environmental awareness, using instruments ranging from ecological cookstoves to mangrove reforestation.

“We learned to coexist better with the environment, to use it but without degrading it, especially the mangroves; without the mangroves there would be no fish in the wetlands,” Daniel Mercado, president of the San Luis La Herradura Local Development Committee, told IPS.

The coastal villages of this and other surrounding municipalities are located in the Estero de Jaltepeque, a complex ecosystem where a variety of animal and plant species live in the mangroves, bodies of water and wetlands.

El Estero is a nature reserve whose watershed covers 934 square kilometres in the coastal region of the central department of La Paz, in this Central American country of 6.8 million people.

Some 600 families in these communities received support to promote a sustainable development model that has yielded good results. The investment of more than 400,000 dollars came from the Small Grants Programme of the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

Many of these people now use environmentally friendly stoves, such as rocket stoves: circular stoves that require very little wood and produce little smoke.

In addition, the firewood comes from living fences made of gliricidia (Gliricidia sepium) trees, which provide firewood, thus protecting the mangroves from people looking for fuel.

The complement to the rocket stove is the so-called magic stove, a circular box made of polystyrene, a material that retains heat.

Once the soup or stew has boiled on the stove, the pot is placed in a magic stove and covered, and the cooking is completed. This saves on both wood and time, as people can do other chores in the meantime.

Solar ovens have also been introduced, made up of a box with a lid which functions as a mirror that directs sunlight into the interior, covered with metal sheets.

Other components of the project, which ended in 2018, include the implementation of sustainable agriculture and fisheries.

The beneficiaries had to work planting mangroves in order to receive support from the programme. As a result, 500 hectares of mangroves have been preserved or restored and sustainable practices have been implemented on 300 hectares of marine and terrestrial ecosystems.

However, preserving the mangroves is still a challenge because people from other communities come to cut down the trees, and government authorities do little to prevent it, Mercado said.

In any case, sustainable development can be tasted in food cooked on ecological stoves and in other initiatives carried out along the Pacific coast of this small Central American nation, where awareness of the need for sustainable development is growing among local inhabitants.

For more information, you can read this story: Recipes with a Taste of Sustainable Development on the Coast of El Salvador.

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