The mangroves rise majestically, their shades perpetually enveloping the waterway below. The intertwining aerial roots stab the water, and eerily immobile, create a surprisingly inviting atmosphere that calls for you to explore further. Dense foliage envelops us as we continue down the water channel, which occasionally seems to reach a dead-end, only for a sinuous turn to appear and open up the only route available. The sporadic sounds of egrets and Manuel’s regular paddling at the back of the dugout canoe add to the tranquillity of the expedition.
“Impressive wouldn’t you say?” Manuel knows the answer already. “This area was mostly dry, and now it’s completely restored. There are 70 hectares of dead mangrove further on – that is what was destroyed before we reacted.” Manuel, a wetland ranger from the nearby Las Mesitas community, is more than pleased to show off one of the region’s greatest achievements.
With over half of the world’s mangroves vanished, and El Salvador only retaining 2 percent of its original forest ecosystem, it is difficult not to admire the surrounding wilderness. Yet the monumental trees give no indication of the problems once faced by this tract of mangrove forest and the feat in community-led mangrove restoration which has taken place to solve them in recent years.
El Llorón, as this area of the Bay of Jiquilisco Biosphere Reserve is called, was dying as a result of water stagnation. Blockages in sea water flows caused by human developments nearby were destroying the mangrove. But a dedicated group of conservation practitioners and local leadership introduced a project to restore the correct hydrological flow and revive the forest. Incorporating communities as key players, local residents worked assiduously for four thankless months, digging up the 3 kilometre channel, transporting bags of mud, enduring bug bites, cuts and injuries to return the waterway to its former glory as a major fish, crab, shellfish and bird nesting area.
The successful implementation of this project in 2012 is typical of the extensive community collaboration, sustainable development and environmental awareness that pervades the spirit of the people of the Bajo Lempa region. The inhabitants of the Bajo Lempa and the Bay of Jiquilisco are continually lobbying for a sustainable management model that not only protects the biosphere reserve for future generations, but also makes sensible use of the precious natural resources which the local communities depend on for their survival. La Coordinadora (the Coordinating Network of the Bajo Lempa and Bay of Jiquilisco), a grassroots social movement born in the 1990s, which works closely in coalition with seventy six villages to promote community development and disaster prevention, is behind these practices. Together with the Mangrove Association – the non-governmental organisation which has stemmed from it – and US partner organisation Ecoviva, La Coordinadora is working hard to raise awareness in climate change, promote sustainable agricultural and fishing practices, and provide the population of the Bajo Lempa, which is dominated by fishermen and subsistence farmers, with the means to live whilst guaranteeing the viability of local ecosystems.
After the tour, I enjoy the day’s catch from the bay with Manuel and fellow local community rangers in Villa Tortuga, a bright ecotourism hostel and restaurant in Isla de Méndez.
Geovanny, an environmental officer for the Mangrove Association who also dedicates time to patrol the Bay of Jiquilisco, explains their motivations:
“A few years ago, the residents of Montecristo, the community which I now chair, became tired of outsiders coming and exploiting our natural resources. People from Jaltepeque, on the other side of the estuary would come and cut down mangroves, overfish, take our cashew nuts, spend days crab hunting, leaving us with little to survive. We decided to put a stop to it, and together with another eight communities we restricted access and enforced a ban with the hope of restoring the wetland”.
What began as a set of regulations established by the villagers themselves ended up being an official Local Sustainable Use Plan. As a result of the conflict, a detailed university study was carried out in order to identify the environmental threats and the specific subsistence needs of the local communities in the western sector of the Bay of Jiquilisco. The results determined the creation of a Ministry of the Environment decree, which formally monitors and controls the removal of fish, crabs, shellfish and wood in a 2,000 hectare portion of wetland, allowing only local residents to make sensible use of the resources. The decree only lasts until 2013, but everyone is optimistic of its renewal and improvement.
“All wetland rangers are from the area”. At 57, and as a former FMLN guerrilla fighter who spent months battling in the mangroves, Manuel is keen to stress the importance of how local knowledge can ensure the protection of an ecosystem. “We have been managers of the local ecosystem for three or four years, and although it hasn’t been easy to change the mindset of individuals, almost everyone now understands the benefits of taking care of their surroundings”.
Trained by the Ministry and the Mangrove Association, seven rangers are currently employed by the government and Ecoviva, way short of the sixteen deemed necessary to protect the whole area. Despite the limitations, the rangers are pleased to be involved. “You will discover than in the Bajo Lempa almost everyone shares the same vision,” says Manuel.
Upon arrival at the Caserío de Icaco school at the other end of the bay, Douglas and I are welcomed by 30 kids wearing orange vests and caps which have emblazoned on them School Protection Committee and Building Communities Resilient to the Disasters in El Salvador. Douglas, who works for the Mangrove Association, is going to hold an emergency response workshop for students aged between eight and seventeen. La Coordinadora has over fifteen years of experience responding to natural disasters, and with the Bajo Lempa being one of the areas in Central America most affected by climate change, (the coastal lowland is constantly vulnerable to floods, hurricanes and droughts), the communities have developed climate change adaptation strategies and preventive measures, including the implementation of awareness campaigns and the creation of emergency response groups in schools throughout the region.
Exemplifying democratic participation, each school creates a Risk Committee, consisting of students, voted by classmates, to be in charge, together with teachers of first aid, environmental efforts and psychological support during an emergency response.
“Participation is key, it’s at the foundation of what we believe in,” explains Douglas after spending over two hours illustrating this to the kids. “These committees mirror our Grupos Locales”. The resemblance with the coalition groups of communities which meet to discuss and take action is evident. “Everybody in the region, young and old, is aware of the effects of climate change and how it is impacting us. We need to be ready to mitigate the negative effects”.
Driving back through the San Juan del Gozo peninsula, we encounter further examples of how the local population is adapting its lifestyle to climate change. We stop next to one of the nine emergency radio towers present throughout the Bajo Lempa. Built and maintained by the local communities, they were constructed as part of the area’s early warning system for the evacuation of areas at risk. Guadalupe, who manages the tower in Corral de Mulas, greets us. “Each tower is run by a member of the local community where it is built, and my local group chose me”. The tower’s loudspeakers have a two kilometre reach, and when an emergency occurs, Guadalupe uses the radio to notify the population of the steps to take.
La Coordinadora’s efforts to develop grassroots contingency plans for emergencies have paid off. Since these local emergency responses were gradually introduced after hurricane Mitch in 1998, not a single person has died in the region as a result of a natural disaster, not even during Tropical Depression 12-E, the worst event that anyone in the region can recall.
“The roads became rivers, you would see boats whizzing up and down, carrying people and supplies”, remembers Marcelina, a resident of Ciudad Romero community, one of the hardest hit by the floods which took place during October 2011. We are having dinner at her home; geckos and flying insects are making their presence known, a sign that night has fallen, yet the heat is difficult to endure. Ironically, as Marcelina recalls the floods, we are both hoping for rain to arrive and alleviate the region from the two month drought inflicting it.
“The problem is caused by the dam. The dam operators released too much water during the tropical storm and it inundated everything. We lost most of our crops and animals. Our homes were damaged, and people were evacuated to improvised shelters. I stayed because I have no one to look after my belongings”. Marcelina, like most locals, believes that CEL, the corporation that manages the 15th September hydroelectric dam upstream from the Bajo Lempa communities, could have failed to release enough water in the early part of the storm, releasing extremely high levels later on, resulting in severe flooding which devastated the region, destroying homes, roads and infrastructure. Furthermore, locals were apparently informed of the release of 9,000m3 per second when the actual quantity peaked at 12,000m3 per second, and only had three hours to prepare for the flooding, the time the water takes to reach the area once it is released upstream. Many residents believe that socio-economic interests, such as energy production and the desire for people to abandon the area to speculate with the land, influence dam releases and their effect on the people living in the lower part of the river.
But locals, under the tutelage of La Coordinadora, have shown immense resilience when put to the ultimate test. Communities got back on their feet, advocated for reconstruction and are already planning on how to protect themselves against future storms – building flood shelters, setting up drains, repairing levees and building river bank protection walls.
“People have suggested that we move somewhere else, but where are we going to go? This is our home now and we do not want to leave”, Marcelina, like most people of the Bajo Lempa, hails from another region of El Salvador. The deeply rooted inequalities in Salvadoran society led to the uprising in the 1970s against the ruling military regime. Guerrilla movements rose to counteract the violent actions of soldiers and right-wing death squads, the government responding with even more violence, burning down entire villages, destroying families and communities suspected of sympathising with the guerrilla.
Over 700,000 fled to exile, and Marcelina was one of them. Originally from the northern part of La Unión region, people in her village escaped to Panama where they were granted political asylum, and stayed for 10 years before returning to El Salvador in 1991, together with thousands of refugees scattered around Central America. Afraid of returning to their villages, they settled in the coastal lands of the Bajo Lempa, which had been private cotton plantations. They laid claim to the lands, which were finally granted to them as part of the 1992 Peace Accords.
“We have always had to organise ourselves. When we were refugees, when we arrived here and started from nothing. We’ve had to build everything and we’ve had to work the land as well. Nobody has gifted us anything,” Marcelina sighs as she remembers the past, but is keen to share her experiences. “Life has not been easy, I lost my husband in 2001 from kidney failure, but we’ve come through”.
Marcelina’s personal account repeats itself throughout the region, for renal disease is the leading cause of hospital deaths and the second cause of death in men in the Bajo Lempa. Recent studies are trying to identify the risk factors leading to chronic disease in the Bajo Lempa, whilst procuring an effective treatment. The most notable theories behind excess kidney damage in the rural population suggest it is overexposure to agricultural chemicals especially on sugar cane plantations, the spraying of pesticides on farms without appropriate protection, and groundwater contamination caused by the excessive use of chemicals on the cotton fields, which covered the region before the formation of the existing communities.
I meet Chungo Fuentes at 4am the next day. Life starts early in the Bajo Lempa, but slightly more so for Chungo, who in his 50s, has also been diagnosed with kidney disease and has to exercise as part of the treatment before milking his cow. Chungo was also a refugee in Panama and was directly involved in the design of Ciudad Romero community upon arrival in the Bajo Lempa. A respected resident, Chungo symbolises the endeavour and fight for self-sufficiency in the region. As an alternative farmer he focuses on diversifying his crop production. His is happy to show his small plot of land, which boasts crops of corn, cucumber, banana, rice, sugar cane, beans and cashew nuts. Afterwards he takes me to the greenhouse where he grows peppers and tomatoes with eleven neighbours as part of an experimental semi-organic irrigation project which aims to slowly introduce alternative crops and vegetables and encourage other members of the community to diversify from corn.
“Peppers are picked every eight days, 200 were obtained the first time, and 340 have been picked this second time around, so it’s a good start.” Chungo firmly believes that the Bajo Lempa is a fertile land and that the solution to the area’s problems lies in introducing irrigation systems and growing and harvesting in the summer. “The winter is completely unpredictable, vegetables and crops at the mercy of floods and droughts, like this one we are currently enduring.”
Like last year’s record flooding, this year’s prolonged drought has brought destruction to the corn crops, and aware that they must move on from monoculture, communities have been spurred by La Coordinadora to start aquaculture cooperatives, cashew nut processing plants and other businesses in an attempt to diversify and reduce vulnerability. La Coordinadora has also been lobbying for local organic seed production, the implementation of seed banks, and sustainable agricultural techniques, and believes that people so long as they are given support and technical assistance, local small farmers like Chungo can move on from dependency from multinational seed companies such as Monsanto and move towards greater food security.
Similar efforts are present throughout the Bay of Jiquilisco. The Coordinating Network of Puerto Parada holds a monthly meeting where 22 member communities discuss to plan, execute and evaluate projects much in the same way as its sister network of La Coordinadora. Recently established, the new Coordinadora receives technical support and funding from the Mangrove Association and Ecoviva, and the meeting which I am attending is a healthy example of democracy, where everyone has a say, all decisions are made through majority voting and the network’s statutes are looked into, revised and agreed. At the end, the representatives agree to return to their respective communities and inform all members of the decisions that are being adopted and future issues which will need addressing. I meet Guadalupe after the meeting. A representative of El Flor community, he also shows one of the local small native corn fields grown by families of five communities in Puerto Parada, who also grow Chipilín legume, peppers and tomatoes.
“Everyone has woken up and realised that things need to change. Our livelihoods depend on the viability of the area and changing our way of living, but more importantly, it’s all about the legacy that we are going to leave our children. We are going to leave this world, but our children are going to continue living in it.” Is everyone rowing in the same direction? “We’ve had problems with some blast fishermen, who refuse to stop fishing with bombs, but almost everyone is slowly realising the need to adapt to change. Most fishermen are changing mentality, you should meet them”.
The motorboat takes Marvin Alberto Alvarado, Eleuterio and myself deep inside the Bay of Jiquilisco. The sun has only recently risen, but soon the sky will be whitewashed by the strong Central American light. Marvin is a member of the local leadership of the Coordinating Network of Puerto Parada, and works to address the environmental issues affecting the bay by promoting sustainable fishing practices with the support of local fishermen, women and local cooperatives. Since before the civil war, blast fishing has been harming fish populations and the local livelihoods dependent on them for subsistence. He aims to persuade blast fishermen to abandon their destructive practice, encouraging dialogue rather than persecution, convinced that the remaining blast fishermen of Puerto Parada will only give up this illicit practice through awareness and the offer of alternatives.
“Fishermen have struggled with pollution and overfishing. Blast fishing guaranteed returns in difficult conditions, but it’s destroying the habitat and affecting fish populations in the long run. Most fishermen have agreed to make the transition to less harmful practices in exchange for fishing gear and immunity from past actions.” Marvin understands that the pledge for sustainable fishing happens one step at a time, as blast fishing has only recently been the mainstay of many fishermen in the bay. The remaining blast fishermen in Puerto Parada are perceived by other fishermen as a threat, and feel defenceless and helpless in what they consider to be a witch hunt. Everyone knows where, how many and which fishermen are using explosives.
Eleuterio pilots the boat. A wetland ranger now, he also used to be a blast fisherman, using grenades to make his catch. Decreasing fish populations made him aware of the destructive nature of blast fishing, so he abandoned the practice and became a pioneer in sustainable fishing through angling.
We have arranged to meet a his son who is making the most of the early tide. A sole boat in the distance indicates the arranged meeting point. Noel is busy angling away with his son and his nephew and fishing partner, who is almost as adept as his uncle. “Show them what we’ve caught,” Noel tells his younger namesake to exhibit the snooks, catfish, silver biddies and red snappers that have been captured already. Noel is a member of the cooperative ACOPILARES and one of 150 fishermen who carry out sustainable fishing in Puerto Parada through the use of fish hooks and lines. “We fish from 6am to 4pm and can earn an average of 10$ a day, rising up to 60$ on a very good day. Many factors influence the fishing: the tide, the type of bait that we use, the depth of the bay, currents, where the weight and baits are placed… Right now they are not biting so we should take a break”.
Noel offers coffee and breakfast in the self-made floating cabin built with mangrove branches and roots. As he rests on the hammock, he paints an all too familiar picture of Salvadoran life. “I lived in the United States for four years as a wetback, working firstly in the sewers and then as a mechanic in Atlanta, California, Virginia and Washington. I was away from my family, and would send remittances to my wife. My younger son Noel was seven when I left. I had to come back, life was hard and I missed my family”. Noel returned to the bay three years ago, where he has transitioned from blast fishing to angling. “Sustainable fishing is the only possible method. It’s not an easy living, but it proves that you can live without the need to fish with bombs”.
Everyone in Isla de Méndez knows Eduardo Zapata as The Duck. I am sitting on a hammock in his house courtyard, acknowledging the people who are slowly trickling in and looking for a place to sit. Eduardo sits opposite me, posing with two home-made explosives.
“The bombs are made of chlorate, benzoate, sulphur, sugar and other ingredients. I can’t deny that I was famous for making the most potent and effective bombs, they would resonate around the bay.” Affable and passionate when he speaks, Eduardo is practically an institution in his community. He is a former blast fisherman and currently chairs the Grupo de Ex-Bomberos (Group of Former Blast Fishermen), an association created in 2011 in an attempt to move forward and leave behind the illegal fishing practice which was harming fish populations, affecting local sea turtle populations and maiming numerous fishermen in explosive-related accidents.
His house serves as the group’s makeshift headquarters, and the people who have gradually sat down around me are also former blast fishermen, summoned by Eduardo to talk about the challenges that they are faced with.
“We left behind a profitable practice and resorted to net fishing,” Eduardo explains their efforts to comply with the law, and move on from an environmentally hazardous and dangerous profession. “We received money which allowed us to buy eight dugout boats and 12 trammel nets, but that is all we have between all 56 members. There are 20 more fishermen thinking of joining our group, but we clearly need more resources, such as motors and nets, which would allow us to fish in the sea instead of the bay”.
Moving on from blast fishing is not proving an easy task. Isla de Méndez is the cradle of this once widely practised method in the bay. Not long ago up to 70% of Isla de Méndez families depended directly or indirectly on blast fishing, a deeply rooted tradition in the local population which started before the civil war and cemented itself when ex-combatants continued using grenades to fish. The inhabitants earned a living as blast fishermen as they believed that it was the only option available to them, and the practice was encouraged from one generation to the next.
Sitting on another hammock, José Alfonso Martinez portrays one of the main negative aspects of blast fishing. He started at the age of 18, and at 21 a bomb which he was about to throw in the bay exploded in his hand, maiming him. “I would throw over 60 bombs into the bay in the space of two tides. I was a curilero (mollusc collector) but I turned to blast fishing to earn more. I knew of the dangers, but needed the money to support my family”. The accident has left him disabled and dependent on his wife, who earns 6$ a day to support him and their four children. Now 24, he still feels fortunate, as many maimed blast fishermen are abandoned by their wives or socially excluded by family and friends, left in depravation and resort to drinking. He has found the support he needs in the group.
“Bombs usually explode due to carelessness when making them. If the gunpowder, which is placed in the fuse (an improvised 1-2 inch plastic tube which is obtained from bicycle cable housing) is not compact, it will burn too quickly and explode before the fisherman can throw it,” Misael, another former blast fishermen, adds. He and the rest of former blast fishermen who belong to the Grupo de Ex-Bomberos do not want to return to what they were doing. “We agree that there is a need to move to less harmful practices but the lack of gear and the previous over-fishing means that our earnings are dropping. Some of us can spend a whole night fishing and only make 4$. If we continue to be ignored and do not receive the material and support to move forward, many will be left with few alternatives and faced with a desperate situation. We know of the dangers of blast fishing and don’t want to return to that.” Misael and his son Brayan would earn 60$-80$ in one hour of tide. “I first went blast fishing when I was nine and was instantly hooked when I saw how much fish could be caught.”
Eduardo and two colleagues take me fishing and demonstrate the jalaría, a practice which involves surrounding the fish with a trammel net whilst one of the fishermen dives in to close the circle down. The process is laborious and precious time is spent rowing to find the ideal fishing spot. When we return to Isla de Méndez, I meet Herbeth Fagoada, a fisherman who unlike many of his colleagues from the community, never resorted to blast fishing. Herberth has played an important role in encouraging others to stop using explosives, and was very supportive when they decided to form the Group of Former Blast Fishermen. “It is an achievement that they have decided to move forward. The situation is difficult, but in the long run everyone will benefit.”
In some cases, change did not have to be instigated, but was brought about by the individuals involved. Boanerges Lovo’s hard, rugged face gives away the years spent by the beach. A former sea turtle egg collector, he now runs an Olive Ridley sea turtle hatchery in Isla Montecristo. He started collecting eggs at the age of 12, and he and his family made a living collecting and selling turtle eggs in the black market, until one day he realised that the number of nests and eggs had declined and that they would not have enough to live on. Now 53, he has been running the hatchery for six years in an attempt to preserve these animals whilst providing a livelihood to the local population.
“I pay each tortuguero 2.50$ for 14 eggs. We know there are few sources of income so this way we guarantee that the eggs reach the hatchery rather than the black market.” Boanerge is convinced of the importance of conserving sea turtles and the ecosystem to guarantee his community’s future. Local families can make enough income to survive while protecting – not destroying – the sea turtle population. The situation of semi-isolation has made the 36 families of Montecristo aware that it is only through organisation and community participation that they will survive, and that they must rely on themselves to defend their natural resources, starting with the conservation of turtles. “We have enforced a ban on turtle egg collection in the community once per week, which will allow the hatchery to collect eggs without any costs, and will provide a much needed respite to the turtles from those collectors who still prefer to sell the eggs for consumption.”
There are 10 turtle egg collectors in Montecristo community, but another 70 make an appearance from other communities, as the beach runs for 7km. It is midnight, and the distant lightning and moonlight reflecting on the crashing waves provide surprisingly good visibility. Every 30 metres, groups of tortugueros sit together, smoking and chatting, waiting for the turtles to come ashore. There are unwritten rules on how to share the same space and time when collecting eggs, and despite the need for money, there is little competition and it is done in a respectful, amicable manner. The Olive Ridley sea turtle season starts in mid-August, but a few turtles are already nesting. Turtle egg collectors expect the turtles around 1am, when they will all get up and patrol the beach, waiting for the arrival of the precious animal.
The scene repeats itself throughout the Bay of Jiquilisco, for the Biosphere Reserve contains the nesting grounds for four species of endangered sea turtles, and nowhere more so than Punta San Juan, where the critically endangered Hawksbill sea turtles lay eggs. Fewer than 500 nesting hawksbills remain in the entire eastern Pacific, with nearly 50% of these nesting in Jiquilisco Bay. Hawksbills in Jiquilisco Bay continue to be killed at an alarming rate by illegal and irresponsible fishing and the Punta San Juan hatchery plays a vital role in protecting and guaranteeing the survival of this critically endangered sea turtle.
Here, former fishermen and turtle egg poachers Vladimir and Emilio run the hatchery. Both hail from nearby El Tular community, and have been trained and employed to track and tag sea turtles and work in the nursery, where they look after the eggs that are retrieved by local turtle egg collectors, provide optimal conditions for hatching and release the newborn at night time.
“96 nests have been found in the first seven months of 2012, and since the turtle conservation programme was introduced throughout the bay, 450,000 sea turtle have been incubated and released. Although 1 in a 1000 reach adulthood the outlook is brighter for both the species and turtle egg collectors,” explains Vladimir.
In his early twenties, Vladimir represents the new generation of the bay, but La Coordinadora is concerned that people like Vladimir could end up being the exception to the rule, and that all the efforts carried out to strengthen the social movement could disappear in future generations. Attempts are being made to make younger people aware of the work that is taking place in the Bajo Lempa, and want them to take an active role in something that they are the future of. Consequently, La Coordinadora and its partners are providing high school and college scholarships to a new generation of youth leaders, with the goal of preventing gang violence and youth migration, whilst also guaranteeing sustainability and social justice.
Expectations are high on youngsters like Chaco. Born on 20th January 1992, four days after the Peace Accords, his father was a guerrilla fighter for 12 years, his mother for five, including eight months of pregnancy when she continued to fight in the front. Chaco forms part of ACUDESBAL, an organisation geared towards offering alternatives to youngsters, such as sport, theatre, radio, painting and artisanal workshops.
“I work with other youth in Amando López community to ensure that teenagers don’t end up drinking or doing drugs. We encourage their participation in the grassroots democratic movement of the region, it’s an effort that must involve all of us, young and old.”
It is this closely knit structure which is guaranteeing the progress of the Bajo Lempa communities and solidifying their convictions and commitment to economic self-sufficiency through environmental accountability.
The Costa del Sol area on the other side of the Lempa river represents exactly what the people of the Bay of Jiquilisco want to avoid. Privatised beaches, luxury apartments, upscale beach homes and ranches, vacation rentals and large hotels share a 7km strip in Jaltepeque.
There, the mangrove forest has been affected, and the much promised job opportunities for locals, who sold or lost their land, are few and far between. And the people on this side of the river seem to be well aware of this. The bay of Jiquilisco was surveyed by developers, who bought land (offering up to 20-40k$ per 0.7 hectares), with the clear intention of developing luxury tourist resorts much in the same style as the Costa del Sol. An struggle ensued, where locals and conservationists teamed up to lobby for a different model and have, for the time being, stopped wealthy developers from destroying major parts of the mangrove forest.
Reflecting on the days spent in the Bajo Lempa at La Coordinadora’s facilities in Ciudad Romero, it’s impossible not to recognise the dominance of an almost unanimous belief that the region’s future lies in ecotourism and sustainable development. Fully aware of the immense biological diversity of the bay, residents understand that they need to look after it in order to subsist, and they are determined to ensure it happens.
In an era of increasingly extreme weather and more frequent and devastating natural disasters, and with perennial social inequalities worldwide, people in a small redoubt of El Salvador are showing more climate change awareness and more willingness to change and adapt their lifestyles than most people in the self-proclaimed developed world.
Their future is uncertain, but if one thing can be guaranteed is that the people of the Bajo Lempa will fight, like they have done all their lives, for the development of sustainable, resilient communities.