agriculture, Environment, Uncategorized

Large-Scale Sugarcane Production in El Salvador

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A field of sugarcane burning just before harvest

Residents of rural communities throughout El Salvador are concerned that large-scale sugarcane cultivation threatens their environment, public health, access to water, local economy, and food sovereignty. El Salvador has laws and procedures in place that should regulate sugarcane production, but government officials at the national and local levels have been unable or unwilling to enforce them. Salvadoran sugarcane production has grown in recent years due to the country’s embrace of neoliberal economic policies that emphasize, in part, free trade and unregulated markets. Unfortunately, the profits and wealth generated by the industry do not trickle down to the communities where it is grown.

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Last year, Voices on the Border staff accompanied residents of the Bajo Lempa of Jiquilisco, Usulután as they stopped investors from planting sugarcane near local mangrove forests, wetlands, and community centers. Despite their success, the ad hoc protests failed to produce any long-term changes. During the process, however, residents, community leaders, and local civil society organizations articulated a need for more information about sugarcane production and how it affects the region.

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Voices on the Border staff responded by researching the issue of sugarcane cultivation and producing this report (click on the images to see the report in English and Spanish). We did so with several audiences in mind. The first was our partner communities in the Bajo Lempa that suffer the effects of burning fields, contamination of agrochemicals, loss of biodiversity, and other impacts of large-scale sugarcane production. A second audience is the government officials that have the power to regulate the industry, to ensure they know how sugarcane is affecting the regions like the Bajo Lempa. A third audience is members of the international community who are concerned with issues related to El Salvador, climate change, food sovereignty, environmental justice, and other topics.

Over the next several months, Voices on the Border will organize events in the Bajo Lempa to disseminate our findings and hopefully start a larger conversation about the impacts of sugarcane and large-scale agriculture. We will support the region in any advocacy campaign the organize, and will post regular updates to this blog.

 

education

Youth in La Tirana (El Salvador)  need your help to stay in school!

In 2014, violence in the Bajo Lempa region of Jiquilisco, Usulutan made it too dangerous for youth in La Tirana to make the 1.5 hour trek to middle school, a perilous journey through gang-controlled areas. In early 2015, Voices on the Border  met with parents, local leaders, and the Ministry of Education to figure out how to keep the youth safe and in school.

Click here to make an online contribution 

The Ministry said that if Voices paid for a teacher and parents enrolled their students, they would certify grades 7-9 at the elementary school in La Tirana. Voices immediately hired a teacher, and by the time classes started 12 youth had signed up. Enrollment then grew to  16… then 18!!!

It was a hugely successful year. The youth went to class in the mornings, and in the afternoons led a literacy program for adults. In December 2015, the Ministry certified that the youth were ready for the 8th grade… and almost all adults in the community were able to read. Voices hosted another meeting with parents, local leaders, and the Ministry, and the consensus was that we have to continue the program in 2016. Voices’ challenge is to find funding for the teachers’ salary ($4,800) and classroom materials ($1,800) – a total of $6,000. Classes have already begun and we are committed to another year, but we need your help to make it happen.

More than investing in the future of La Tirana, which this program does, the community’s needs are more immediate – to keep youth in school so they are busy and productive, and not get caught up in violence.

Voices on the Border is a  nonprofit organization that promotes “just and sustainable development in El Salvador.” Specifically, Voices accompanies communities in two regions of El Salvador, the mountaneous region of Northern Morazan, and the Bajo Lempa region of Jiquilisco, Usulutan, along the coast. In 1987, concerned U.S. citizens launched Voices as a way to provide material and political support to refugees that had escaped civil war and were living in a refugee camp in Colomacagua, Honduras.

La Tirana is a special community of 25 families nestled in the mangrove forests in the Bajo Lempa region of Jiquilisco, Usulutan. Though it is one of the most isolated and economically challenged communities in the region, La Tirana takes pride in its sustainable relationship with the natural resources they are blessed with.

In addition to education Voices on the Border is accompanying La Tirana as they take on threats such as large-scale sugarcane production , mega-tourism projects , and security. Voices  is also engaged in other education initiatives in the Bajo Lempa. Last year we began a pilot project called LEER with the middle school in Amando Lopez. The project has three objectives: 1) create a local board of Education to oversee the local school and advocate for more appropriate resources; 2) refrom parts of the curriculum so that it reflects the realities of living in rural El Salvador; and 3) train teachers to identify and work with special needs students in their classes.

*Your contribution is tax-deductible, and 100% of the funds we raise are for education in La Tirana!

education

Learn More about the Bajo Lempa Education Project

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On the 1st, we launched a Global Giving fundraising campaign for an intensive educational project in the Bajo Lempa. To date, we’ve recieved numerous generous donations and have less than a week to reach our goal. Today Global Giving will be matching donations at 20%.

Have you been wondering what our Bajo Lempa education project is all about?             Click on the PDF below to get a better understanding of the nuts and bolts and, as always, feel free to share.

LEER, Lograr en Educación Rural / Success in Rural Education

Uncategorized

Celebrating the Life of a Liberation Theologian

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On August 25, Ecclesial Base Communities (CEBES), family members, the Archdiocese of El Salvador and international visitors said their goodbyes to a well-known Liberation Theology priest at the Awakening Center in San Salvador.
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Father Pedro D’ Clercq, though born and raised in Belgium, had spent the past 47 years living and working with the Salvadoran CEBES as one of it’s founders as well as a prolific proponent of Liberation Theology throughout Central America. Although he died peacefully in his sleep after battling lung cancer, he’s already been imprinted in history next to such martyrs as Oscar Romero, Octavia Ortiz, Rutillo Grande and Segundo Montes.

According to the CEB’s he was born in Izegem, Belgium on the 10th of February, 1939.

In June of 1964, Padre Pedro was ordained as a priest by the Roman Catholic Church. He stayed in Belgium as a teacher, until he received the calling to come serve in the Americas, oddly enough, at a soccer game. He began his service in Panama and then came to El Salvador in 1968 where he formed base communities and cooperatives throughout San Salvador, Chalatenango and Usulután.

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In 1977 he was excommunicated from the Catholic Church, due to expressing his critical views on the Salvadoran reality from the pulpit. He moved back to Belgium following the decision and from there formed numerous CEBES, in fact, he had formed CEBES in Panama and Nicaragua as well.

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smallerIMG_8628 smallIMG_8661In 1992, he came back for good, settled in the Bajo Lempa region of Usulután and formed base communities, supported cooperatives, wrote publications, facilitated workshops, and even started a blood bank among many other projects. His writing, “Walking with Jesus and Monsignor Romero,” inspired the faith formation pre-school model of Community Segundo Montes, in Morazán. Padre Pedro, up until the end, tirelessly continued to travel throughout the country visiting and working for the people.

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He often said, “Who would I be without Romero? Who would I be without Rutillo? Who would I be without all the Martyrs? Who would I be without the ecclesial base communities?”

It was apparent, as hundreds came to pay homage to the beloved priest, that he had touched so many lives and hearts and will remain fixed as a man who genuinely loved the Salvadoran people.

(closed captioning in Youtube)

agriculture, Climate Change, Corruption, Economy, El Salvador Government

Carlos Rosario School Returns to El Salvador with New Delegates

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Voices had the pleasure of hosting a delegation from Carlos Rosario, a public charter school for adult immigrants in Washington, D.C. Seven of their staff came down to El Salvador, where a majority of students are from, in order to learn about the country and better understand their students’ roots. The delegates’ objective was to explore the broad reality of Salvadoran culture, economics and education as well as the dynamic effects that migration has on individuals, families and communities.

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After receiving a detailed explanation of the people’s history of El Salvador, they met with the Vice Minister of Education, Teacher’s Union Leaders, a human rights defender, visited the National Cathedral, the UCA, toured the Museum of Words and Images and bought a lot of good reads at Equipo Maiz. Then they traveled to Morazán where they talked with the pastoral team of Community Segundo Montes about the 9 years they’d spent in the refugee camps in Colomoncagua, Honduras. They got a thorough overview of the civil war at the Museum of Revolution in Perquin and reflected heavily after visiting El Mozote. In the lower Lempa River region, they stayed with hosts families in Amando Lopez and experienced life in agriculture based communities there and along the coast. They visited with local community leaders and teachers to hear their perspectives on development and education in the region, they donated much needed supplies to three separate schools and before it was all done they taught a class!

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The group was delightful. They asked great questions, covered a lot of ground, offered helpful suggestions, participated in meaningful dialogue and gave a gift to nearly everyone they met.

Carlos Rosario, thank you and keep up the good work in D.C.  |  READ THEIR BLOG!

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