In 1992, the Salvadoran government and the guerrillas of the Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional (FMLN) signed a peace agreement that put an end to the country’s bloody civil war. Much of the heavy fighting throughout the 12-year conflict had taken place in Morazán, a rugged department in the mountainous northeast. As a result, infrastructure there was destroyed and residents had fled.
With the peace agreement in effect, urgently needed foreign aid began to pour into El Salvador and rebuilding got underway. Refugees and ex-combatants returned and received land. Torola, a municipality overseeing a resettlement program, was assisted by its Association for Community Development (ADESCO), a legally constituted grassroots entity, and IAF grantee Patronato para el Desarrollo de las Comunidades de Morazán y San Miguel (PADECOMSM).
PADECOMSM is a nongovernmental organization founded in 1984 to provide the public services that had been interrupted during the civil war. By 1995, its focus had shifted to assisting municipal governments and local development organizations with training, technical assistance and loan programs. In 1998, the IAF awarded PADECOMSM $290,425, to be disbursed over four years, to strengthen 24 ADESCO, microbusinesses and municipal services in Torola and to provide technical assistance to farmers and microentrepreneurs. Subsequently, the neighboring municipalities of El Rosario and Jocoaitique were included in the project. The award eventually totaled $672,395 disbursed through 2006.
PADECOMSM’s proposal was appealing because it brought together municipal governments and local grassroots organizations to address an array of immediate community needs, such as infrastructure, healthcare, education and assistance with agriculture. Resources flowing from the central government and international donors supporting the resettlement programs assured substantial counterpart.
In 2010, a team of evaluators assessed PADECOMSM’s coordination of development efforts in the three municipalities and itsimpact on healthcare, education, agriculture, infrastructure and the environment. Noteworthy findings include the following:
- Close to 1,200 farmers, who had been growing corn and beans were trained in crop diversification and began to grow fruits and vegetables.
- Ten model farms and 59 temporary demonstration plots were developed to help farmers adopt new crops and responsible production techniques. Of the 10 model farms, six continue to be used for learning and four reverted to conventional farming.
- By the end of the grant period, 615 loans had been extended to 272 farmers, 72 more than originally planned. In addition, 204 microentrepreneurs received loans to expand their businesses. In 2009, the last year data was available, PADECOMSM awarded 2,441 loans, totaling US$2.28 million.
- Administrative and technical assistance allowed 24 ADESCO to improve their work. Currently, 18 actively plan and participate in local development; six are inactive due to insufficient membership as a result of departures from the area or leadership issues.
- A committee of representatives from the ADESCO, other community organizations and municipal governments drafted plans for four local development initiatives in Torola and El Rosario. Government authorities used the plans as a basis for assigning priority to the reconstruction of roads, clinics and water and power systems.
- Seven nutrition and early-learning centers were developed to benefit 187 children but five had closed before the evaluation was conducted due to insufficient parental interest and funding. PADECOMSM had misjudged parents’ commitment vis-à-vis other priorities.
The project resulted in diversified agriculture, better diets, improved income and more participation of residents in the development initiatives of their municipalities. Participating ADESCO improved their ability to draft development plans and formulate proposals.
- Project participants grow 26 percent of the vegetables and 59 percent of the fruits in the region; in 1998, their production was limited to local staples. Farmers credited PADECOMSM’s training and technical assistance.
- New techniques allowed farmers to increase production. Household income rose from $50 per month in 1998 to $85 in 2006 and then to $125 at the time of this evaluation. Those interviewed report setting aside a fourth of their production for home consumption, which has improved their diet. They use income from the sale of their crops to pay for their children’s education.
- Participating ADESCO have become very skillful in assessing community needs, proposing development initiatives and solving problems. Working with municipal authorities, they have successfully leveraged government assistance and foreign aid to fund roads, schools, water systems and electrical power in remote areas.
- Most remarkably, PADECOMSM developed its incipient microcredit program and became more accountable and better organized. Launched in 2006, PADECOMSM Crédito is now an independent financial institution, wholly owned by PADECOMSM. It serves more than 2,500 clients and has extended $2.3 million in loans.
Four years after completing its IAF-funded project, PADECOMSM continues to thrive. To take advantage of market opportunities, PADECOMSM separated its microcredit program from its training and technical assistance, now called PADECOMSM Social, which serves NGOs and grassroots organizations. PADECOMSM Crédito has become one of the most important microlending institutions in El Salvador. The value of its loans peaked at $3.4 million in 2008. From 2006 to 2010, PADECOMSM Social undertook 19 projects valued at $1.5 million to which it contributed $216,000. The continued success of PADECOMSM Social is due in large part to its financial interest in PADECOMSM Crédito, from which it receives, on average, $100,000 in dividends annually.
PADECOMSM’s accomplishments are attributable to its strong and effective leadership and management. Its dedicated staff was experienced in all aspects of the training, technical assistance and credit that PADECOMSM provided during its IAF-funded project. The staff maintained productive working relationships with the municipal governments and the Salvadoran ministries of health, education and agriculture.
PADECOMSM had an exemplary record of providing assistance to communities during the civil war and during the transition that followed the signing of the Peace Accords. This record and the location of their office in the project zone encouraged trust, which contributed greatly to its success.