San Francisco Gotera, Morazán, El Salvador, April 29, 2019. In the forum “Challenges and solutions for water restoration and agriculture in the Cerro Cacahuatique region”, before an audience made up of water boards, ADESCOs, mayors, and entities of the territory–as well as representatives of government and national NGOs–the formation of two Water and Agriculture Funds (FOAG) to carry out activities of protection and restoration of springs was announced; one in the north and one in the east of Cerro Cacahuatique region.
FOAGs are multi-actor platforms for coordinating and financing actions aimed at water security and food security. FOAG investments are mainly based on the promotion of good agricultural practices to conserve soils and water for crops located in water recharge zones. These practices enable greater retention of rainwater and its infiltration into the subsoil, allowing the recharge of aquifers and the deposition of the vital water in the springs of the area. They also mean benefits for producers, as they increase resilience to drought and pests, increase yields, and improve the quality of crops.
Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the Gulf Basin Association of Fonseca (ACUGOLFO), the Environmental Investment Fund of El Salvador (FIAES), ADEL-Morazán, water operators, and ten municipal governments are the first members of the FOAG, but the bet is that other local and national actors will join.
Research by CRS and ACUGOLFO over the last 5 years in the Cerro Cacahuatique region and in the Central American region endorses these good results. The data in the country are impressive, in maize and pastures the yield increases are more than 100%; and in beans and coffee, the increases are 29% and 23%, respectively.
“Water safety is a complex issue that demands innovative and collaborative attention from teamwork from different locations and sectors,” said Carlos Díaz, Mayor of Gualococti and President of the Association of Municipalities of Cerro Cacahuatique Norte. “We are one of the first municipalities to develop plans for the resilience and restoration of agriculture and water,” Diaz said.
In order to sustain and prioritize, with a scientific basis, the actions of the FOAG, CRS financed a hydrogeological study of the Cerro Cacahuatique region. The research identified the main areas of water recharge and proposes their designation as crucial zones and regulations in order to conserve them. The study states that “the relative low permeability of the Cerro Cacahuatique due to its soil type means that more attention needs to be paid to address the issue of plant cover as an element that can promote rainwater retention, reducing the runoff, and increasing infiltration. This is a particularly important issue considering that the forest area (with or without coffee cultivation) has been declining in recent years.”
The findings of the study conclude that much of the areas of recharge of water sources for the Cerro Cacahuatique also reach the territory of several neighboring municipalities, so it is necessary to manage and protect through an intermunicipal effort involving multiple actors. In response to this need, the FOAG Norte (which incorporates 6 municipalities) and FOAG Este (of 4 municipalities) were formed, bringing together the key players in the area.
“Establishing protection zones at water recharge sites is key to ensuring the quality and quantity of the water that reaches the municipalities of the region. And we must also go one step further by implementing sustainable agricultural practices, as there is a close relationship between agriculture and water security. The care of one area is reflected in the quality of the other,” said Marcos Sanjuan, CRS’s ResCA-RAICES Project Coordinator.
The constitution of the FOAG is a significant milestone, as it is the first such mechanism implemented in the country. It represents a pattern shift, in which “local mayors and actors innovate water and food security.”
“El Salvador’s challenges with climate change, food security, and water security urgently need to be addressed,” said Cedrick Vázquez, Mayor of Osicala. Droughts in the country are becoming more intense, precipitation in the area is expected to be reduced by up to 25% in the coming years and soil has been degraded by unsustainable farming practices. Last winter, the area suffered almost 42 consecutive days of drought.
“The flow of the springs that supply the urban centers of Chilanga and San Francisco Gotera have decreased by 34% in the last 5 years, complicating the water supply,” said Reina Martínez, Manager of EMDESA (Municipal Aqueduct and Sewage Company) and FOAG. “On the other hand, total users have increased by 23% in the last 10 years. This trend is very worrisome in terms of water safety.”
All these actions are part of the ResCA program, a regional initiative funded by the U.S. Department of State, aligned with the AgroLAC 2025 multi-donor platform, coordinated by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), led by The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and implemented by CRS and ACUGOLFO in the east of El Salvador. Also noteworthy is the Water and Soil for Agriculture (ASA) program of CRS and ACUGOLFO, who through research and training has been key to the involvement of mayors and producers in this new restorative approach for soils, water, and crops.
 With more than 200 demonstrative and research plots alone, in the Cerro Cacahuatique region.
 San Antonio del Mosco, San Isidro, San Simón, Gualococti, Osicala and El Rosario.
 San Carlos, San Francisco Gotera, Chilanga and Yoloaiquín.
 According to MARN data (2018)
“There is urgent need to address the challenges facing El Salvador in the face of climate change, food security, and water security,”
Catholic Relief Servicesis the Catholic community’s official international humanitarian aid agency in the United States. The agency provides assistance to people in need in more than 100 countries, regardless of race, religion, or nationality. CRS’s aid and development work are carried out through emergency response, HIV, health, agriculture, education, microfinance, and peacebuilding programs. For more information, visit www.crs.org or www.crsespanol.org and follow Catholic Relief Services on social media: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @CatholicRelief, and @CRSespañol.
ACUGOLFO is an organization composed by the GOASCORAN, SIRAMA, and CONCHAGUA Region basins, and is made up of local actors, leaders, representatives of community organizations, and governmental and non-governmental organizations committed to the protection and conservation of the different ecosystems that exist in the basins of the Gulf of Fonseca.
Resilient Central America (ResCA) is an initiative that seeks to improve the livelihoods of farmers, ranchers, and fishermen in Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, as well as at the regional level in collaboration with the Central American Integration System (SICA). It works in partnership with producers, researchers, and both the public and private sectors to develop healthy productive ecosystems that are more resilient to climate change through conserving the natural resources that underpin food production and strengthening local economies. It is a four-year program funded by the U.S. Department of State, aligned with the AgroLAC 2025 multi-donation platform, and led by The Nature Conservancy (TNC). For more information, visit www.centroamericaresiliente.org and follow us on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/ResilienteCA/) and Twitter on @ResilienteCA
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