“Processing fish, drying, salting and selling it is my passion”
“When a great wave came it used to create a pond filled with huge shrimp” in the mangrove area where she lives, remembers Doña Nicolasa Alvarado del Cid from El Tamarindo, El Salvador. Nowadays, in this area on the mouth of Río Paz the big mangrove trees as well as many fish and crustaceans have vanished, and the river turns dry in the summer. Together with Wetlands International, Doña Nicolasa fights to regain the lost ecosystem services, as she says: “Us women, we have to be fighters”.
In the 1960’s, fish were abundant as she remembers: “My father used to bring in silver mullets, tropical gar, snook, swordfish, shark and many more species”. With her husband catching them, Doña Nicolasa dries and sells fish on the market of El Tamarindo in the Achuapán Department. “Work in the household does not satisfy me. Processing fish, drying, salting and selling it is my passion. But things are not like they use to; it’s very different now”.
In the ‘70s haciendas (big farms) gradually started occupying the mangroves turning them into cattle grazing and farming land”. Mangrove tree extraction increased with groups of 10 to 15 persons turning the larger White Mangrove (Laguncularia racemosa) into firewood or carbon. Ever since then, the mangrove did not regenerate, as the Río Paz carrying fresh water is diverted for irrigation of farmland and now ends up 7km upstream. This brought along a lot of change, as in the summer heat the Río Paz runs dry at its mouth.
No regeneration means no food
No regeneration of the mangrove forest means no mangrove cockles (Anadara spp.), as they need the trees’ shadow to develop. This directly affected her livelihoods: “I used to catch some 25 dozens of cockles per day. These were of good size and quantity, but now there are none.” Having raised her 7 children from the fruits of the mangrove and sea, their well-being and services directly affect her daily life.
Doña Nicolasa is current President of the Artesan Fishermen Cooperative ‘Reyes del Sol’ in El Tamarindo. With support from the transboundary Río Paz Project in El Salvador and Guatemala of Wetlands International, she works actively in participatory research on wetland ecosystems and their values. Objective is to identify with local communities like hers in El Tamarindo the measures to restore and preserve the mangroves and river estuary. With support from Wetlands International, Doña Nicolasa continues her struggle to maintain her way of life and the cooperative. “Us women, we have to be fighters”.