CRS in El Salvador

El Salvador is the smallest and most densely populated country in Central America. With a population of just over 6 million, it is also considered the most industrialized country in Central America. However, its people continue to face serious challenges.

An estimated 1 in 5 El Salvadorans have emigrated. The country is the second most deforested in the Western Hemisphere. The income inequality between rural and urban areas is severe.

Environmental degradation and global climate change make the country highly susceptible to natural disasters. Competition for natural resources is intense.

Additionally, low economic growth and high levels of violence and insecurity continue to affect Salvadoran society in profound ways.

Visit the Coffeelands blog for more information about CRS’ work in El Salvador.


People served: 19,872

Population: 6,141,350 (July 2015 est.)

Size: 8,124 sq. mi.; slightly smaller than Massachusetts

CRS' History in El Salvador

CRS' first activity in El Salvador was a food program in 1960. We’re now heavily involved in helping Salvadorans to grow their own food. We also serve by delivering emergency aid, carrying out integrated development projects, and promoting charity, justice and solidarity.

Since the 1992 peace accords ended 12 years of civil war, CRS El Salvador—in collaboration with our local partners—has implemented development projects in agriculture and environment, health, HIV and AIDS, microfinance, peacebuilding and civil society. 

Since its inception, CRS El Salvador has carried out emergency response and reconstruction efforts to assist Salvadorans affected by the civil war and numerous natural disasters including earthquakes, hurricanes and tropical storms. We also help communities to prevent and mitigate loss from natural disasters.  

Catholic Relief Services and our local partners work with families to improve farming systems. It’s work that goes well beyond growing more crops. Along with crop diversification, we promote soil and water conservation, reforestation, expanded access to markets and agro-enterprise opportunities. Farmers learn ways to adapt to climate changes that include extended dry or rainy periods. We introduce practices that make farming more environmentally friendly and sustainable. We also help strengthen farmer organizations. 

With the support of USAID, the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, and the Ford Foundation, CRS has recently begun an initiative to reintroduce the cultivation of the pre-colonial crop, cacao, in El Salvador. When grown within a diversified system, cacao brings environmental benefits and generates economic opportunity to family farmers while rehabilitating their often severely degraded soils. CRS is working with farmers to develop a value chain that extends from the production of cacao through its transformation to the sale of quality chocolate.

With our partners, we address three key problems the country faces: high levels of youth unemployment and inactivity; high levels of violence in which young people are both victims and perpetrators of violence; and the creation of alternatives to migration for young people.

Through its Youth Builders project, CRS has provided vocational and entrepreneurial training, job-placement support, life skills and leadership development, and community service opportunities. 

CRS promotes peacebuilding in El Salvador through its youth violence prevention programs. CRS and our local partners help marginalized youth participate in civic and economic life in El Salvador through skill-building workshops and community service programs. One result is increased trust and reconciliation between youth and their communities. 

With Caritas, we help form community savings groups in the poorest regions of the country. The groups target all members of the community—youth, women, men—and provide them a safe and self-managed way to build community savings and access to credit. The groups increase assets on their own without relying on banks or donors. The savings groups also foster community organization and leadership development of women and young people in particular.