I have written about my admiration for Mayor Mecho of Nombre de Jesús and the village of Potrerillos, in rural Chalatenango, El Salvador before.  Another reason I admire Mayor Mecho is because of the work he has done to create jobs and opportunities for members of the communities in Nombre de Jesús.  Many of the youth from Nombre de Jesús have chosen to migrate to Salvadoran cities or to the U.S. because there is such extensive underemployment and unemployment.

A recently-planted cornfield in the mountains of northern El Salvador. All the seeds are planted, tended, and harvested by hand, as the land is too steep for the work to be done mechanically.

Agriculture is still the main employer and economic source in rural El Salvador.  Most farmers grow corn, beans, and sorghum.  Agronomists have taught the local farmers about different fertilizers and better or more efficient farming methods.  Farmers have increased their yields while decreasing the amount of time they spend working in their fields each day.  Unfortunately, as a result of the DR-CAFTA, globalization, dollarization, and other economic woes, it costs less for the people to buy corn and other grains from the U.S. than they can earn by selling their own crops, so more and more farmers are choosing not to farm the land. [1]  Some farmers have decided only to grow enough corn, beans, and sorghum for their family’s own consumption, others raise cattle, do odd jobs when available, or rely on remittances from family members who have migrated.

My friend, Herberth, is one of the persons who Mayor Mecho has helped make connections and find a calling.  Herberth started collaborating with CORDES, a Salvadoran non-profit organization, in 2007, to focus on alternative agriculture.  On his small plot of land, he grows several different varieties of pineapples, bananas, mangos, tomatos, and vegetables, including different kinds of squash and gourds, like pepían and loroco.  CORDES has worked in Potrerillos on many projects, especially in the areas of improving potable water access, farming education, and alternative agriculture.  Herberth, with the assistance of CORDES, has attended several horticulture seminars in San Salvador and continues growing non-traditional fruits and vegetables on his parcel of land.  His dream is to do well enough in his garden that he can afford to buy a pick-up truck to be able to take his produce to other villages’ markets or sell directly from his truck.  Below are some pictures of Herberth’s garden that I took in 2007:

Herberth's Garden-2007

Herberth Amaya

Herberth's garden is basically the side of a mountain... so in order to prevent erosion and retain as much water as possible for the dry season, Herberth has planted grasses with deep roots that will serve as a retaining wall.

Another view of the nearly vertical garden, looking from the top.

Pineapple starting to grow

Wire for the loroco to grow on

Showing how big these squash can get

More seedlings to be planted

Another successful day's work

CORDES is a rural development organization in El Salvador that was created to promote and strengthen the sustainable development of Salvadoran families in rural and vulnerable suburban areas in economic, social, environmental, and political arenas.  For more information (in Spanish), click here to go to the CORDES website.

[1] José Alidio Dubón (former president of the directiva comunal of Potrerillos), interview by author, 25 June 2007.