El Salvador

El Salvador is a small, densely populated Central American country that is struggling to overcome the legacy of a lengthy civil war that took place in the 1980s. Since a peace accord was signed in 1992, major economic reforms such as trade liberalization and the privatization of the financial sector have been undertaken; these reforms have stimulated economic growth and reduced extreme poverty. El Salvador was hard hit, however, by the 2008-09 global financial downturn, with a decrease in exports and remittances, high levels of unemployment, and increasing food and fuel costs. Poverty increased from 35.5 to 42.3 percent between 2007 and 2008 (World Bank). Recovery has been slow, with growth at 1.5 percent in 2011 and forecast to be 2 percent in 2012; the government’s Anti-Crisis Plan has attempted to stimulate growth through job creation, improvements in infrastructure, and extension of social services.

Overall poverty has been reduced by a third since the end of the war in 1992 (World Bank). However, rural poverty remains high, with 55 percent of Salvadorans in 2002 living in poor rural areas; levels of extreme poverty in rural areas are almost double those found in urban areas (IFAD). Rural poverty most impacts households whose income depends solely on agriculture. Between 1991 and 2002, poverty in purely agricultural rural households declined only from 75.3 percent to 74.1 percent. While poverty contributes to the heavy flow of Salvadoran migrants abroad, the poorest households often are not the ones receiving remittances from migrants – in 2002, only 11 percent of households in the poorest quintile received remittances from abroad (IFAD).

Malnutrition rates in children continue to be high in El Salvador, highlighting the need to address food security. In 2004 and 2006, the government instituted two food security programs, the National Plan for Food Security (NPFS) and the Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS), respectively (FAO).