El Salvador Final Report

Peace Corps Final Report

As a PCV {Peace Corps Volunteer} in El Salvador I had 3 separate jobs with two government agencies and a private development corporation. Correspondingly, I will present my final report in three parts each one dedicated to my work in association with one of the 3 organizations.

I. Project Atiocoyo (Dirección General de Obras de Riego y Drenaje)

From the start of my Peace Corps service (Oct. 18, 1974) until mid-July of 1975 (a period of 9 months) I was assigned to DGORD to assist in the Atiocoyo Irrigation Project. A PCV was requested by the project head Ing. {Ingeniero or Engineer} Nestor J. Gonzalez to work as a rural sociologist in evaluating the present situation in the irrigation district, and suggesting ways to promote the development of the district. I was not sure what my role was to be in the project when I started, but felt I needed to get out and live at the site of the project rather than in San Salvador where the higher level technical people involved in the project all lived. I moved out to Atiocoyo in about mid-November, and lived there until late February.

During this period I read studies of the Atiocoyo and Zapotitan Irrigation Districts, got to know local Instituto de Colonización Rural (ICR now ISTA) personnel and the living conditions of the people in general, and worked as more or less an intermediate technician at the project experimental farm. I hoped at this time to work with the cattle project to be developed at the experimental farm, since I had had both training and background in cattle raising, and given that I was fuzzy on what I could accomplish as a lone “sociological” field worker.

In January of 1975 the leadership of Project Atiocoyo changed. Ing. José Rubio took over as project head, and Ing. Abilio Orellana became head of agricultural development and my new boss. Ing. Orellana expressed to me his concern for the lack of any good information about the farmer-owners of small agricultural lots in the San Isidro sector of the project. Because the law which created the Atiocoyo Irrigation District stipulated that agricultural exploitations had to range in size between 5 hectares and 50 hectares, about 160 farmers who owned farms of less than 5 hectares presented a problem for the development of the District. In the project development plan it was proposed that part of these minifundios {small farmers} be relocated on government land in the Atiocoyo and Nueva Concepción sectors of the project. However, no concrete relocation plan had yet been developed, and in fact little was known about the population of small landowners who would be candidates for the proposed relocation.

Ing. Orellana put me in charge of doing a “sociological” study of the small farmers of the San Isidro sector, and I moved to the town of San Isidro in late February. I was promised assistance in the form of interviewers for the study, but it never materialized. Once involved in the study I became convinced of its importance and finished it, doing the 143 interviews all myself, tabulating the results, and helping in the translation into Spanish. However, by the time I completed the study I was thoroughly disgusted with the lack of support from DGORD, and their seeming lack of interest in the human aspect of the irrigation project in general. I turned the completed study over to my superiors and left the project.

Recently (October 1976) I have been contacted by DGORD and then by ISTA {Instituto Salvadoreño de Transformación Agraria or Salvadoran Agrarian Transformation Agency}. They requested that I talk over the results of my study and my experiences in general, during the time I was with DGORD, with the people they have assigned to carry out the relocation of minifundios in Project Atiocoyo. I went to ISTA and had an interesting, and I hope quite useful discussion with the people in charge of the relocation in the División de Adjudicación de Tierras, Departamento de Administración Temporal {Division of Adjudication of Land, Department of Temporary Administration}. I was encouraged by their appreciation and understanding of the problems involved in such a relocation of people. One of the people in charge of the relocation expressed interest in requesting a sociologist through Peace Corps to help them in the relocation and other social aspects of the irrigation project. I think the position could be a good one for a PCV, but at present it may be politically delicate because of the strong internal opposition to the land reform law and ISTA, the agency which is implementing it.

I have left copies of my study, titled “Estudio de los Minifundistas en el Sector San Juan-San Isidro del Proyecto Atiocoyo”, with Francisco Rodríguez of Peace Corps, Ing. Nestor J. Gonzalez of DGORD, the team in charge of the relocation at ISTA and the Departamento de Planificación {Planning Department} of DGRNR.

II. El Maizal (CREDHO, Episcopal Church of El Salvador)

From mid-July of 1975 to the end of May, 1976 I worked as a Volunteer in the Pastures and Forages Program assigned to the small farmer training school and demonstration farm El Maizal, near Metalío. El Maizal was formed by CREDHO, a private development corporation organized by and dependent upon the Episcopal Church of El Salvador. PCV Harry Brokish had made contact with the then director of El Maizal, Salvador Gomez, and had proposed to him the initiation of a project to demonstrate the usefulness of sorghum silage as the basis of a cattle ration. El Maizal was to get cattle through a British group known as Heifer Project, and Harry’s proposal was directed toward helping them care for the animals, and at the same time carry out a result demonstration which he and many others felt would provide important data for those involved in the cattle farming industry in El Salvador. Jay Hasheider, another PCV, was already working at El Maizal when I began.

We planted forage sorghum, and began construction of a silo in August since the cattle were expected in November. I also made contact with some technical people working with BFA {Banco de Fomento Agripequario or Agricultural Development Bank} who had a plan for an inexpensive, simple milking barn. Earl Sutherland, a pasture specialist from New Zealand, and his colleagues in the FAO {United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization} group at BFA visited El Maizal several times. They made a plan to fit our needs, helped select a site for the barn, and helped me collect cost data for the construction of the barn and corral.

We completed a 30-35 ton brick and cement trench silo in October, and filled it about two thirds full (on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1) with the sorghum we had planted. The Dirección General de Ganadería {General Cattle Farming Directorate or DGG} loaned us a silo filler and technical help for the ensiling process. Ing. Batris from the DGG office in Cara Sucia also headed a team who did a superficial surveying of part of El Maizal, and made a map of it.

I also made contact with PCV Whiney Lawrence of the A.I.D. {US Agency for International Development} Special Development Fund. El Maizal solicited and received a silage chopper and a platform scale from this fund.

The cattle did not arrive on schedule due to a delay in the sending of the money for them from Heifer Project. I had not succeeded in getting CREDHO to put up money for building the milking barn or planting pasture, so we were not really prepared for the cattle in the ’75-’76 dry season in any case. My personal opinion is that CREDHO, which has gotten a tremendous amount of financing through various international assistance organizations, expected Peace Corps or DGG (or someone) to provide the money for these things. Also, Salvador “Profy” Gomez, though a great organizer and a man dedicated to helping the peasant farmers, did not fully appreciate the need for extensive preparations at the farm, before arrival of the cattle, in order to have a viable cattle project of the type Harry had envisioned.

When the cattle project bogged down thus, Jay and I devoted more time to other projects El Maizal was involved in. I started a recordkeeping system for their rabbit raising operation, tattooed the rabbits to identify them, and in general took de facto control of their care. We began milking the purebred goats El Maizal had been given by Heifer Project, and tried unsuccessfully to get their employees to take over milking of the goats and the sale of the milk.

A number of things contributed to my leaving El Maizal. Salvador Gomez left the project after a disagreement with officials of the Episcopal Church. Shortly thereafter the Church people and the new director of El Maizal fired the two agrónomos {agricultural extensionists} and one of the cooperative promoters who had been working there – the other coop promoter quit in protest. This action was most inconveniently taken at planting time, delaying the distribution of seed & fertilizer to El Maizal coops, and as it turned out, preventing the planting of any crops in April and May at El Maizal itself. The cattle project still was stalled; with the coming of the rains the silage we had made in October would probably rot. In general, I felt the cattle project would not begin at El Maizal in 1976, and since I was scheduled to end my Peace Corps service in October of ’76, I felt I might use my time more productively by taking an alternative post at DGRNR.

I visited El Maizal in August of 1976, and found that, under the direction of a new agrónomo, El Maizal had planted sorghum, and planned to refill the silo this year. They also planted 6-7 manzanas {about 5 hectares} of African Star grass. They now reportedly have money to buy cattle, and have again made contact with the BFA expressing interest in constructing a milking setup. One important factor in their continuing the project has been the threats from A.I.D. Special Fund representative PCV Tom Morgan that he would take away their scale and silage chopper if they did not continue with the project as planned.

I think the Metalío area has potential for a PCV in Multicultivos {another Peace Corps El Salvador program}. The community of Metalío is in the center of an ISTA hacienda where most of the agricultural lots are small, and some farmers in the area are already trying such things as planting corn or beans with sugarcane, and watermelon and cucumbers with corn. He could probably put in a demonstration plot at El Maizal, and work with members of the coops CREDHO works with as well as work with independent farmers in the area.

III. Departamento de Planificación, Dirección General de Recursos Naturales Renovables

From June 1976 until the end of my service in El Salvador, I worked for the Departamento de Planificación of DGRNR. I was originally assigned to the agency primarily to work on a socioeconomic study of the watershed of the Río Tamulasco. This study eventually was postponed until 1977, but I did complete an analysis of the land tenure situation in the Department {Salvadoran departments are like US states} of Chalatenango, and an analysis of the “standard of living” of people in this department, which will serve as basic information for the study when it is done.

I participated in other things which the Planning Department was involved in while working there. The biggest project I got involved in was a study of fishermen’s coops in El Tamarindo and La Unión. Mike Shank, a fellow PCV, was in charge of the combined study of the two coops (perhaps not in name, but in fact he directed the analysis and preparation of the study document up to the final revisions which were made by our supervisors). At this writing, the study is being revised for, we expect, the last time before being presented to our department head Max Anaya.

Mike and I have worked most closely with the Subunidad de Proyectos {Project Subunit} within the Planning Office. Rafael Lasso, head of that Subunidad, has been very cooperative, as have all the people in the Planning Department.

Since replacements for Mike and I have been requested, it seems appropriate to say something about what kind of role they can expect to play in Planificación. The Department devotes a great amount of its time to writing the annual budget and the operative plan for DGRNR. Since the PCV does not participate in these activities he may be left without much to do when the other people are immersed in them. A resourceful PCV can find himself things to do. Mike is helping a guy in the Sevicio de Recursos Pesqueros {Fishing Resources Service} do the economic part of a freshwater fish culture study right now, for instance. I think Planificación can definitely use a PCV economist for the next 2 years, but the sociologist position is more difficult to justify. The sociological part of most studies they do consists of a census-like presentation of data on the education and living standards of the people in the area of interest, and the public services available to them. Also, the Department has discussed reducing the scope of its function as a producer of studies in favor of expanding its role in evaluation of the work of the other subunits of DGRNR.

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