El Salvador Works to Protect Nature and People

April 11, 2013


Restoring the aquatic eco-system in the Metapan Lagoon through collection of excess water lilies.

World Bank

With Global Environment Facility (GEF) support, the Protected Areas Consolidation and Administration Project updated the National Strategy and Action Plan for consolidating and managing the Natural Protected Areas System, and tested it in two pilot protected areas. The project prevented deforestation and promoted regeneration on over 20,207 hectares. Both pilot protected areas were delineated, and land tenure conflicts were reduced. Training and alternative livelihood investments benefited local solidarity groups and cooperatives, and strengthened their support for biodiversity conservation.


By 2005, most lands under the Natural Protected Areas System were still “paper parks” with an inadequate legal framework or physical protection and no managed buffer zones. Only a fraction was legally declared and demarcated.  The institutional structure governing these lands was confusing and even though the Ministry of Environment (MARN) was responsible for the entire system it had legal title to a mere 7,070 hectares. The quality and type of environmental goods and services, biodiversity resources as well as the number of human settlements were not well known, complicating their management and prioritization. 

Refinement of the National Strategy for the Natural Protected Areas System, definition of priorities and greater stakeholder consensus on this strategy and on conservation, were essential. The Ministry of Environment lacked the legal tools to manage and consolidate the Natural Protected Areas System, to address the sensitive issue of human settlements in protected areas, and to clarify land tenure and resolve invasions of state-owned, unoccupied lands.

A methodology was needed to identify illegal and legal settlements within protected areas and regularize the latter. Finally, the Ministry’s acute resource limitations threatened its ability to consolidate the Natural Protected Areas System. 


The project’s two main activity streams were inter-dependent, the idea being that delimitation, demarcation, implementation of management plans and regularization of park residents, would feed into innovative legal, policy, and strategic goals and instruments essential to the Natural Protected Areas System’s long-term sustainability.

The project was to be partially blended with the second phase of the Bank-supported Land Administration Project whose massive collection of land-related data would constitute a foundation for large-scale conservation including the consolidation of protected areas, and development of a strategy for addressing irregular settlement within them.

The project was also highly innovative in seeking to demonstrate the viability of protected areas’ residents continuing to live productively within areas subject to environmental conservation and restriction while assuming a direct role in conservation.



Using the water lilies as material for crafts

World Bank


The Protected Areas Consolidation and Administration Project helped to conserve El Salvador’s globally-significant biodiversity by strengthening the Natural Protected Areas System and effectively pilot-testing a management strategy in two pilot protected areas through the following outcomes:

  • An updated strategy and action plan was finalized by 2012 using project-generated inputs and experiences including the Protected Areas Rationalization and Prioritization Study completed in 2011, the Management Plans leading to 24 alternative livelihood demonstration investments in the pilot protected areas’ benefiting over 2,700 poor park residents, and the field regularization activities;
  • Global Environmental Facility (GEF) Tracking Tool scores of 48 in mangroves and 58 in forested areas (Bahia de Jiquilisco) up from 26 and 15 respectively in 2005; and 58 in forest areas and 35 in aquatic (San Diego-Las Barras) up from 37 and 2 respectively in 2005, indicated improved protected areas’ management;
  • Biodiversity benefits were established on 20,027 hectares by 2012 compared to 12,400 hectares in 2005, including the regeneration of over 7,600 hectares of additional forest cover;
  • The project delimited 68 terrestrial areas and one marine/aquatic area. It transferred these areas to MARN and declared them as protected areas by 2012, up from zero in 2005.
  • In the San Diego-Las Barras pilot area, 90.5 percent was free of land tenure conflicts by 2012 (Bahia de Jiquilisco field surveys were completed but not yet analyzed by closing).

" They trained us to use better, safer fishing methods which increased our catch and allowed the fish to regenerate "

Jose Mauricio de Paz

President of the Cooperative Association of Fish Production, Isla de Mendez (Bahia de Jiquilisco)

Bank Group Contribution

Actual total project costs were US$4.9 million, comprising GEF funding of US$4 million and Government contribution of US$0.9 million, about 28 percent of which was expected at appraisal under the blended operation with the Land Administration Project II, and about 36 percent of the counterpart amount following cancellation of the Land Administration Project II. Lower costs were due to (i) over-estimation of areas to be covered by field regularization activities, (ii) the non-completion of certain activities. Subcomponents 1.2 (legal and institutional framework) and 1.3 (public dissemination and awareness campaign) were a fraction of anticipated (11.3 percent and 8 percent respectively) due to non-performance, and (iii) time ran out and the Bank did not approve a second extension of the closing date to complete activities. Component 2 costs were about 17 percent higher, and administrative costs were 28 percent lower than expected.


The project was a partnership with the Government of El Salvador through its Ministry of Environment. The planned formal collaboration of other Government agencies with the ministry was limited once the LAP II was cancelled, but technical and other forums were established in the final year with experienced sector agencies including the National Registry Center and the Salvadoran Institute for Agrarian Transformation. The Ministry of Environment has also taken steps to forge closer working relationships with the Ministries of Agriculture, Tourism and Fisheries to broaden the political and technical foundation supporting the Natural Protected Areas System.

Moving Forward

No immediate follow-on or scaled-up operation is planned given the Government’s current priorities and the Country Partnership Strategy 2010-2014. El Salvador is, however, increasingly embracing the global climate change agenda on both mitigation and adaptation.This includes participation in the Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Fund helping the country develop a vision for managing and monitoring its forest resources and to prepare for forest carbon transactions, to which this project’s achievements have direct relevance. The Ministry of Environment is also seeking funding from the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation in Developing Countries fund for a program to restore eco-systems and landscapes in Bahia de Jiquilisco.


Restoring the eco-systems through the construction of artificial reefs (arrecifes)

World Bank


The project’s beneficiary pool was broadly-defined and inclusive, identified by a participatory social assessment, but did not set specific beneficiary targets or disaggregate beneficiaries by gender. In San Diego-Las Barras the livelihoods of local groups were being affected by excessive growth of water lilies in the Metapan Lagoon, interfering with navigation, tourism and fishing. The project taught residents how to extract the lilies to reduce density, promote normal habitat and boat traffic, and use the lily material to make craft items and soil fertilizer.

Jose Mauricio de Paz, President of the Cooperative Association of Fish Production, Isla de Mendez (Bahia de Jiquilisco) said:

“Once armed conflict ended in El Salvador, many fishermen – about 120 just in our area – started using explosives as an easy way to fish, but it killed everything and over time the fish disappeared. Our complaints to authorities were unsuccessful. Finally, the Naval Forces recommended we contact the Ministry of Environment which linked us up to productive opportunities under the project. They trained us to use better, safer fishing methods which increased our catch and allowed the fish to regenerate”.

poor park residents were benefited from the project