Participatory communities: Conservation and restoration strategy of Suma Un Bosque project

19 July 2022
Gabriela Gavarrete

“Over time, various approaches to nature conservation work have been developed. Some of the most important ones, at present, are those that involve local people in conservation actions.”

– Edgard Vanegas, Escazú Agreement Promotion Team in El Salvador

Conservation and restoration plans are a mechanism to mitigate the accelerated degradation of ecosystems, generally in terms of wildlife and natural resources. One of the socio-environmental problems in El Salvador is the total or partial intervention of natural areas by anthropogenic activities. This is because it is one of the most densely populated countries, considering its territorial extension. According to the World Bank, El Salvador has approximately 315 inhabitants per km2.

The effectiveness of conservation projects depends on the strategies we follow to achieve the objectives in our territory. With this in mind, we are implementing a participatory planning model with the Suma un Bosque project. It consists of structuring a work route designed with the local communities’ participation, which comprehends their needs and those of the ecosystem.

Marcela Aldana, ‘Doña Marce’, is a community leader in Lomas del Tecana, where Suma un Bosque takes place. Since the start of the organization Un Pulmón Más, which supports the project, Doña Marce and her family have opened the doors of their home to young volunteers.

These volunteers’ initiative was to protect and restore the forest and develop environmental education activities with young people from Santa Ana. The latter, from their professional areas, have contributed to making the organization one of the best known in the western part of the country.  

Deforestation and tree-burning have affected everyone in Cerro Tecana. For instance, the river that used to run in front of their houses disappeared a few years ago. Doña Marce is convinced that supporting the initiative to restore the hill will benefit its inhabitants and future generations.

Progress of Suma Un Bosque in 2022

One of our project’s objectives is to empower communities toward the sustainable development of their ecosystem. Along these lines, along with the community farmers, we implemented an agroforestry system of maize cultivation and forest trees this year. Because of the type of soil and its slope, trees provide stability on the ground, prevent landslides, and are natural barriers against storms and strong winds.

Thanks to the Restoration Stewards program, we have been able to organize reforestation activities more efficiently, as we have the right tools and resources to provide the best maintenance for the plantation. Our outreach has increased in terms of volunteers, authorities, and local people, who also have expressed interest in joining the project.

One of our goals is to generate action plans that include forest management manuals and good agricultural practices. These would be implemented through workshops and training, providing tools to create a balance between human needs and forest health.

Community-based work is not easy; there always appear adversities that are difficult to deal with. However, one finds the path to ensuring the health of ecosystems when understanding the role of communities in the care of nature.

Forests’ restoration is in the hands of those who inhabit them.

Foto EDH/ Yessica Hompanera

Gabriela Gavarrete

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Supporting partners

Under the banner of Generation Restoration, the Youth in Landscapes Initiative (YIL) and the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) launched the Restoration Stewards program in 2020 to support and highlight the work of six young restoration practitioners and their teams, dubbed ‘Restoration Stewards’. The year-long program provides funding, mentorship, and training to deepen the impact of these projects.
In 2021, the Restoration Stewards and their teams will be supported to further develop their project and will become ambassadors at both global and local levels. Globally, the Restoration Stewards will share their journey in a series of vlogs and blogs documenting their stories of inspiration and challenges. Locally, they will spark a restoration movement, creating pathways to connect, share, learn, and act for more sustainable landscapes.