Much of the news coming out of El Salvador these days highlights the violence and suffering plaguing the small Central American nation of 6.34 million people. The country has seen a worrying amount of violence of late, with 3,830 murders since the new year, earning it the dubious distinction of having one of the world's highest homicide rates. Along with many other countries in the region, El Salvador also faces widespread poverty, wealth disparities, narco-traffic and ecological degradation. Insecurity and violence have reached levels not seen since the end of the civil war in 1992. Simultaneously, Salvadoran farmers are losing their crops to severe drought caused by a particularly strong El Niño. Only in the last couple of weeks have they seen some rain and relief.
But while many fret over escalating violence, and others in Washington pay lip service to Central America's dire social situation, local communities are doing something to address the root causes of poverty and violence, from the lack of educational and economic opportunities to environmental degradation. Indeed, local actors are taking the reins and are tackling climate change as they live it. There is a growing grassroots movement that is working toward finding solutions to the problem of rural development and environmental conservation and promoting democracy and youth leadership.