Sustainable farming helps families in El Salvador overcome the latest in a series of challenges

How an agroecological approach helped one female farmer through droughts, floods and now the COVID-19 pandemic

Celia continued to work throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, providing her family and community with fresh vegetables. ©FAO/Omar Arriola


On their vegetable farm in El Salvador, Celia Osegueda and her two sons battle year in, year out against tough weather conditions. Their plot sits near the Pacific coast, in a part of the country where intense droughts and sudden floods are all too common. Recently, however, it is not just the weather they have had to contend with: they are also facing the global pandemic.

Celia and her family have no choice but to continue to work. Pandemic or not, she and other members in her community of San Luis Talpa rely on her vegetable production to be able to eat nutritious food. Celia is one of the food heroes that has worked to maintain the country’s food security during these trying times.

Celia hasn’t always been able to grow crops that could survive these tough periods though. She and her family used to only produce the basic crops that are traditionally farmed in the country, such as beans, corn and sorghum. However, these crops suffer greatly from excesses of rain or other effects of climate change. Her farm was struggling - until she participated in an FAO project in her region, where she learned about climate-resilient practices and the benefits of diversifying her crops.

After training in sustainable agricultural production, Celia and others in the area are now able to grow nutritious, seasonal produce, including tomatoes, chilies and cucumbers. ©FAO/Omar Arriola

From basic crops to prized produce 

With the help of FAO, in 2018, she began implementing climate-smart and environmentally-friendly practices on her farm. This model for sustainable production was implemented through an FAO project that aimed to reduce the use of pesticides in the community of San Luis Talpa. The project teaches organic practices including the use of natural pesticides made by community farmers and promotes diversifying crops that are better adapted to the effects of climate change. 

The project also established irrigation systems, which allowed local families to grow cucumbers, chilies, radishes, tomatoes and aromatic plants. Soon, Celia transitioned from subsistence farming to growing these horticultural crops on her farm.

“Now, even in the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic, we produce chilies and tomatoes on our plot. We harvest chilies every eight days and collect three or four bags. We also pick tomatoes every two days.”

These crops help family farmers have a more nutritious diet and earn a better income. This “from the field to the table” strategy enables families to sell their products to others in the community, as well as to restaurants serving tourists on the nearby Salvadorian coast. 

“Here in this community we have learned to produce our vegetables with an agroecological focus. Before, we only planted corn, sesame and cassava. Now thanks to FAO we have diversified our crops and we can even take our vegetables to the market and to local restaurants,” Celia says happily.

FAO’s project helped family farmers in El Salvador grow crops that are better adapted to droughts, excess rain and other effects of climate change. ©FAO/Omar Arriola

Food production during the pandemic 

Before the coronavirus arrived in the country, Celia sold most of her products to local restaurants.  This has changed as restaurants have been forced to close because of the containment measures. Instead, now she sells her products from her home, following the hygienic requirements. 

“We sell our product to families at a lower cost to help them. With our harvest we also help our own home. I generate income, and I can give my children better nutrition. Thank God we have our plot in these times of crisis," Celia says. 

“FAO has given us special support - we had never received help of that kind before. Now I feel more motivated and would like to increase my production and reach other markets, not just the local ones." 

FAO is working with the Government of El Salvador and local authorities to minimize the impacts of COVID-19 on producer families and strengthen agricultural production in El Salvador. By strengthening the resilience of family farmers and equipping them with the tools needed to provide for their families in a time of crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, FAO is supporting the economic recovery of rural families in El Salvador. 

Behind all of our food, there is always someone who produced, planted, harvested, fished or transported it. We thank these #FoodHeroes who, no matter the circumstances, continue to provide food to their communities and beyond - helping to grow, nourish and sustain our world. 

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2. Zero hunger, 8. Decent work and economic growth, 15. Life on land