© 2013 Amy Kessler

Local Management of Natural Resources

Coming to the Bajo Lempa last January as part of Team El Salvador allowed me to see the commitment of the communities in the region to promoting a sustainable future.  I was impressed by their organization and willingness to meet for hours to discuss sustainable community tourism and the Local Plan for Sustainable Extraction (PLES).

Coming back to the Bajo Lempa this summer, I have continued to be as impressed as ever by the communities’ dedication to sustainable development; however, I have also gained a better understanding of the complexities behind their support.  Over the summer, with the support of the Mangrove Association and my EcoViva partners, Aaron Voit and Nathan Weller (a fellow MIIS alum), and building off the 2013 Team El Salvador’s work, I began the formal evaluation of the PLES, focusing on its implementation and socioeconomic impacts.    The study primarily has consisted of a number of interviews and questionnaires: first with the park rangers and community leaders to provide a context and understanding of how those in charge view the effectiveness of the PLES, and then with the community members to gauge their support for the PLES and its regulations as well as their dependence on the mangrove forests for income and sustenance.

One of the more contentious regulations of the PLES is the community members’ use of mangrove wood.  While the majority of community members recognize the need to protect the mangrove ecosystem and often specify the need to decrease the amount of cut mangrove wood, they also emphasize that for many, without the economic means to purchase other building materials, mangrove wood is the only viable option to build their houses.  The PLES regulates this use of wood through granting permissions to extract a designated amount of mangrove wood based on economic necessity.  However, the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources recently created a law that negated the communities’ ability to locally regulate the extraction of mangrove wood; thus, families are either unable to make repairs to their homes or chose to extract wood illegally with the fear of receiving a fine from the park rangers rather than their guidance.

When asked how to describe the mangrove forest, one of the most common responses I’ve heard is that the mangrove forest is a “source of life”.  While there is still a gap of knowledge regarding some of the specifics of the PLES and even the name PLES itself is rather unknown to community members, in general, the members support regulations that protect the mangrove forest.  The local leaders, better versed in the terminology of the PLES, promote its regulations, and are aware of their community’s dependence on the mangrove forest, not only for its extractive resources but also for its non-extractive benefits such as flood and storm protection.  The park rangers, though greatly limited by their lack of funding, are well trained in the specifics of the PLES and are knowledgeable sources of information regarding its implementation and compliance.

While the study is not yet finished, it has thus far provided a greater understanding not only of the PLES and its socioeconomic impacts, but also of the greater picture of the communities’ struggle to support mangrove protection while also economically dependent on its resources.  One conclusion I have already formed, however, is that these well-organized and committed communities are capable of sustainably managing their own natural resources, though they need the backing to do so.


  1. Ferdinand Hurt
    Posted December 16, 2013 at 11:55 am | #

    I think this is a good article, probably a main and deep study about how those communites they create a sustainable future could be a great indication and help for middle and big cities. A deepeer investigation about their methods would be a great idea.

  2. gunjam
    Posted March 19, 2014 at 9:51 am | #

    I Agree.. 🙂

  3. alvany
    Posted July 16, 2014 at 7:22 pm | #

    This article is awesome. The words are so structural and the used terms are quite easily understood. Keep it up

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