On the Ground with: Asociación de San Isidro Cabanas (ASIC)

Supporting access to clean water in El Salvador

With 5.7 million inhabitants, El Salvador suffers from persistent levels of poverty, malnutrition and a lack of access to clean water. Due to heavy deforestation, a long dry season and inadequate facilities for treating wastewater, Salvadorans' access to potable water is especially low, particularly in rural regions. In recent years, the gold-rich subsoil of northern El Salvador has attracted various foreign mining companies to engage in exploratory drilling—the process by which companies find gold. The result of this drilling has deepened groundwater levels, causing water sources in several rural communities to dry up completely. Animals have died of dehydration and animal farmers are left without work, impacting the community's income and food sources.

Empowering community, protecting the environment

In 2007, AJWS began funding Asociación de San Isidro Cabanas (ASIC), a community-based organization in the municipality of San Isidro in Cabanas—El Salvador's poorest area. While promoting integrated community development through education, empowerment, care for the environment and gender equality, ASIC has also been a pioneering force in resisting the efforts of foreign mining companies to destroy Salvadoran land and water sources.

Organizing anti-mining efforts through art and action

In collaboration with other NGOs and local youth, ASIC has engaged in a vigorous, multi-generational anti-mining campaign to protest the activities of Pacific Rim, a Canadian mining company whose exploratory drilling has dried up water sources in San Isidro. ASIC has engaged youth to paint murals that celebrate the natural environment, record anti-mining announcements on local radio stations and promote the campaign among local community members. ASIC has also organized community-wide protests to denounce the land exploitation that threatens to destroy San Isidro.

Hunger prevention fast facts

The World Food Program reports:

  • Seventeen percent of the Salvadoran population cannot afford enough food to reach the recommended minimum intake of 2,100 calories per person per day.
  • More than 62 percent of Salvadoran farmers have fewer than five acres of land to cultivate and 39 percent lack access to clean water.
  • In a single day, Pacific Rim's proposed mine would use 900,000 liters of water, a quantity that could sustain the average Salvadoran household for 20 years.

Voices of Change

"We are asking for respect, because even as a small community, we have dignity."

—Ramiro Rivera, community leader

"Armed with paint, words and homemade beats, the people of San Isidro—from lawyers to illiterate farmers, to young kids dreaming of a better life—are uniting, a veritable David up against a bulldozer-clawed Goliath. They have been joining forces with similarly affected communities throughout El Salvador and Central America, forming strong networks of solidarity. It is my hope that their work will pay off, and that access to clean water will become an inalienable right for all rather than a privilege for some."

—Julia Kaminsky, AJWS World Partners fellow

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