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Tiburon aid worker to speak about El Salvador crop shortages


Tiburon aid worker to speak about El Salvador crop shortages*

By Will Jason

As an aid worker in El Salvador for the past nine months, Jennifer Sklar Gilbert of Tiburon has served as a liaison to sister communities in the United States, Canada and Italy. Her organization, Fundahmer, provides education, development assistance and other services to rural residents.

But in recent months, a single issue has risen to the top of the group’s priority list: food.

In a trend blamed at least partly on climate change, El Salvador has seen increasingly extreme weather patterns, including more frequent hurricanes and droughts. This year, Gilbert said a drought has decimated the corn and bean crops in Morazan, an area in the country’s northeast where she has worked.

“It hasn’t rained since September, and the crops basically dried out,” she said. “The bean crop of most farmers we work with was entirely ruined and the corn crop was 60 percent ruined.”

The damage is not purely economic, Gilbert said. In Morazan and other rural areas, residents depend on the crops for food.

“What we’re really worried about is that farmers are going to get hungry enough, desperate enough to eat their seeds,” she said.

Laura Smith, who ran Fundahmer art programs in El Salvador for three years, said she has met some residents who work in factories or in other non-agricultural jobs, or who receive remittances from relatives in the United States. But many still depend partly on their own food crops, and poverty is widespread.

“They really bank on being able to grow their own crops to feed themselves,” she said. “There are these unexpected curveballs thrown at them that affect their already unstable situation, and it makes it even more of a challenge to get by.”

Gilbert, who recently returned to Tiburon for a visit, said the full impact of the drought has not yet been felt, but her group is expanding a work-for-food aid program in anticipation that things will get worse.

“It hasn’t reached a crisis stage yet,” she said. “It’s something that is going to happen in the next weeks and months. There is going to be starvation.”

Gilbert will give a presentation, including photos from El Salvador, from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday at the Westminster Presbyterian Church at 240 Tiburon Blvd. in Tiburon.

For more information, send e-mail to To donate, make checks out to RISES, P.O. Box 327, Allen Park, MI 48101-0327 and write “Fundahmer” in the memo line.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has information on climate change and food supply at



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