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Permaculture in El Salvador


A Thesis Submitted in Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirements for the Degree of
Master of Arts in Sustainable Communities

Northern Arizona University
May 2007


Robyn Wilson



El Salvador is a traditionally agricultural country that is moving forward with neoliberal development and industrialization.  It is also a country in severe environmental and social crisis due to centuries of exploitation and abuse.  The Permaculture Institute of El Salvador is sustainable community development organization that is working to improve the environment and the quality of life for the marginalized rural poor.  They combine permaculture practices and philosophy with the local culture and climate to create an effective and empowering movement.  Utilizing the Mesoamerican Farmer to Farmer Movement, people not only become ecological farmers, but also permaculture promoters and community leaders.

In the age of growing concern of global warming, peak oil, and failing conventional agriculture, there are growing grassroots movements in search of an alternative to industrialization and neoliberalism.  The work of the Permaculture Institute of El Salvador provides evidence that an alternative is possible, even in a severely degraded land. By focusing on strengths instead of weaknesses, and turning obstacles into opportunities, they bring hope to communities struggling to retain their traditional lifestyle.  They are both an inspiration and a guide, demonstrating what is possible in El Salvador and the rest of the world.



Any project as large as a thesis is only possible with the cooperation of a large community of people.  In the last four years, I have had the privilege of working with people of great knowledge and generosity. I thank my committee, and many others at Northern Arizona University with whom I have worked academically and professionally.  I have also created invaluable relationships with permaculture, and peace and justice activists in the Flagstaff community, from whom I have benefited in many ways.  This education was possible because of the unconditional support and love from my parents, my family, and my friends.  Most of all, I am indebted to my husband, Ryan Wilson, for his companionship through this journey and those to come.   

A mis amigas y amigos de El Salvador.  No puedo explicar mi gratitud por su amistad.  San Pedro Masahuat, La Paz, es parte de mis pensamientos y mi  alma.  Edgard Ramírez Sánchez y la familia nos han enseñado y hecho tanto por nosotros en los últimos siete años.   Muchísimas gracias a los miembros del Insitito de Permaculture de El Salvador, especialmente a Karen Inwood y Juan Rojas, por su dedicación, inspiración, y apoyo.   En solidaridad…


Graduate Committee:
Chair:  Miguel Vasquez, Ph.D.
Karen Schairer, Ph.D.                                                                       
Cecilia Ojeda, Ph.D




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