El Salvador accelerates nature-based climate actions through UNDP-supported project financed by the Adaptation Fund

Creation date: 30 Aug 2021

Project addresses catastrophic impacts of climate change by promoting improved land-use practices, while addressing poverty, hunger and migration

30 August 2021, El Salvador ­– The Government of El Salvador is stepping up efforts to protect vulnerable citizens from the clear and present risks of climate change.

With support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Government launched a new nature-based climate change adaptation project this year. The new project, financed by the Adaptation Fund, will apply nature-based solutions to address droughts, extreme weather events, floods and other climate change-related impacts that are increasing poverty, malnutrition and migration in the Central American nation.

Climate change is having severe impact on the lives and livelihoods of the people of El Salvador. Changes in rainfalls, droughts and floods have resulted in significant loss in the agricultural and livestock sectors. Over the past three decades, the impacts of climate change have cost the Salvadoran economy over US$2.2 billion in lost productivity, and according to the Interamerican Development Bank. If immediate measures do not take place, El Salvador’s GDP could drop by as much as 7% by 2030.

In South Ahuachapan, a region that relies mainly on agriculture and livestock production, erratic precipitation patterns, high temperatures, unsustainable land management practices and an increase in extreme weather events are threatening livelihoods and food security.

This June, El Salvador’s Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Agriculture and UNDP jointly launched an initiative to help address the impacts of climate change in South Ahuachapan. Made possible through a US$7.8M grant from the Adaptation Fund, the project applies ecosystem-based adaptation to support local livelihoods and improve land-use practices.  

“The project relies on integrating forest landscape restoration to increase forest cover, improve the hydrological cycle, increase the amount of available water, and regulate surface and groundwater flows to reduce the impact of extreme weather on this vulnerable landscape. To address issues of poverty, inequality and hunger, while at the same time making good on commitments to the Paris Agreement to protect our people and our planet from the impacts of climate change, the project favors resilient productive management. This approach contributes to improved food security and community resilience,” said Ryna Avila, Environment Officer for UNDP El Salvador.  

Restoration activities include the rehabilitatiation of sensitive ecosystems, agroforestry and silvopastoral systems that will be executed by the communities and local associations through the support of the Fund for Environmental Investment of the Americas (FIAES). Further, technical assistance and support will be provided by the Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Agriculture to diversify income-generating activities, improve knowledge on local hydrology and climate change, and address unsustainable practices through informed territorial planning and inclusive governance.  

Government partners and UNDP are advancing the work of the project, establishing baseline and target values to measure the project’s impact, and building grassroots support through a series of virtual and in-person introductory workshops in project sites in San Francsico Menendez and Tacuba.

COVID-19 continues to have a severe impact on the people of El Salvador. While taking lives and disrupting the national economy, the pandemic has also limited access to necessary materials for traditional farming. Local stakeholders have expressed concerns of the multiplying risks climate change and COVID-19 will bring.

“This initiative is not only vital to cope with climate change, but also is highly relevant in a cultural context, as it prioritizes the active participation of women, youth and indigenous  groups favoring local and ancestral solutions for capacity enhancement,” said Leonel Garcia of the Council of Citizens of the People of Tacuba.

The project leverages traditional knowledge of native plants and seeds, providing the basis for community-driven climate actions. This builds a sustainable pathway for local productivity and a green recovery, and accelerates El Salvador’s Nationally Determined Contribution to the Paris Agreement.