The Mangrove Association
The Mangrove Association supports interconnected grassroots social movements in the Lower Lempa River and Jiquilisco Bay area, reaching eight municipalities in southeastern El Salvador with a population of approximately 35,000 people.
Our work focuses on five main programs:
The Mangrove Association is a grassroots community organization that works to strengthen capacities, build skills, and advance agricultural practices to improve the quality of life of the population in the Bay of Jiquilisco, El Salvador. We focus on community organizing, food security, youth engagement, environmental conservation, and gender equality.
To be a democratic, participatory, autonomous, supportive, self-sufficient organization with the capacity for political advocacy and the establishment of inter-institutional relationships at all levels to improve the living conditions of the population in the Xiriualtique-Jiquilisco Biosphere Reserve.
Principles and Values
- Participatory democracy
- Citizen participation
- Respect for the environment and human dignity
- Community sovereignty
- Self-governance as the basis of sustainability
- Gender equity and diversity
- Respect for diversity of thought
The Lower Lempa River region of El Salvador, known as the Bajo Lempa, has been a highly contested territory for decades. Before the Salvadoran Civil War in the 1980s, the Bajo Lempa was an important agricultural zone, with large plantations producing cotton and sugar cane. These vast plantations were worked by thousands of laborers who lived in slave-like conditions. During the war, most inhabitants fled as intense fighting took place between the military regime and left-wing guerilla movements.
El Salvador’s civil war was one Latin America’s most violent. The seed of this conflict was stark inequality; the vast majority of land was owned by a small number of families and most of the citizens were relegated to poverty. From the late 1970’s until the Peace Accords in 1992, at least 75,000 people died and more than 700,000 people were forced from their homes.
Even before the end of El Salvador’s vicious civil war, refugees and ex-combatants started resettling towns and villages on the country’s coast. Many more refugees returned to the country at the end of El Salvador’s conflict to rebuild their lives on land granted to the displaced in the 1992 Peace Accords.
Most of the new residents of the Bajo Lempa were unfamiliar with the coastal ecosystem. From the Jiquilisco Bay to the Bajo Lempa and beyond, the region experiences frequent flooding, storm surges, and hurricanes. The national hydroelectric commission would release water from its dam system along the Lempa River every year, without warning the communities.
In 1995, community leaders formed a small group that began meeting to address these problems. While most members were returned refugees or ex combatants, former members of the military began to join as well. They began organizing to confront the devastating flooding that was destroying their ability to resettle in the new post-war democracy. They started by creating an emergency plan to respond to major floods that covered fields and damaged the fledgling towns. This group blossomed into an organization known as La Coordinadora del Bajo Lempa y la Bahía de Jiquilisco (The Coordinating Network of the Bajo Lempa and Bay of Jiquilisco, or La Coordinadora), which now involves nearly 100 communities in the region.
In 1999, La Coordinadora founded the Mangrove Association to serve as its legal entity. Today, the Mangrove Association manages local programs in sustainable agriculture, rural infrastructure, leadership development, and community-led conservation across the coastal region.
The Mangrove Association works directly with the communities of the Bajo Lempa, organized into entities called Local Groups. These Local Groups bring together neighboring communities, which then communicate with the central organizing committee of La Coordinadora and the Mangrove Association.
Our work in the Bay of Jiquilisco, home to Central America’s most extensive mangrove forest, has been recognized throughout El Salvador as a model for national coastal policy and rural development. Our social movement advocates for positive change in local and national rural policy through concrete alternatives to persistent local problems, adept alliance building, and a clear, principled vision for sustainable development and environmental conservation. Today, community members are active in the management and conservation of the Bay of Jiquilisco mangroves and estuaries, working alongside scientists and conservation practitioners to ensure a just, equitable and sustainable way of life for the people of El Salvador.
President, Board of Directors
DJ, Radio Mangle
José María Argueta
Secretary, Board of Directors; Program Coordinator, Agroecological Production
Speaker, Board of Directors
Program Coordinator, Children, Adolescence and Youth
Director, Radio Mangle
Coordinator, IAF Agroecology Project
Treasurer, Board of Directors
Coordinator, Kenoli Project
DJ, Radio Mangle
Speaker, Board of Directors
Technician, IAF Agroecology Project