Jul 22, 2020
by Marielena Andino, MAFM, MIS

Why I Chose to Serve on ECOPA's Board of Directors

The other day, I came across a quote that said: “Sometimes you make
choices in life, and sometimes choices make you.” It’s an interesting quote
that makes me ponder about the choices that have made me who I am.
One of my best childhood memories revolves around our family’s fun
weekend outings. Every other Sunday, we would pile into the car to attend a
traditional festival, play in the warm ocean water, hike up to the crater of a
volcano, picnic at the foot of a waterfall, visit a town with its colonial style
architecture, savor the local food of each region, and just immerse ourselves
in the rural life and cultural richness of the country. I was born in El
Salvador, a small country that offers a beautiful geography of volcanoes,
coastal areas, and fertile valleys all within a few hours’ drive from the capital
city where we lived.

We always stopped and spent time talking to the different people we met:
vendors at the market, farmers selling their fresh produce, craftsmen
exhibiting their items, or food artisans making their various edible products.
My mother would ask them to explain how they planted their crops, how
they made the cheese they were selling, where they got the raw materials
for the elegant hand-made rocking chairs for sale, or how they caught the
fish that we saw at the market stalls. Listening to these conversations I was
getting an education about life in the countryside and even at my young
age, I understood that every day was a struggle for survival and making a
living was almost an insurmountable challenge.

My mother made the choice to travel through dusty, unpaved roads to visit
the deepest corners of El Salvador. This choice molded me into a nature
lover, gave me an appreciation for the rural lifestyle of the country, and
taught me to love the hard working people of El Salvador.

I made the choice to be involved with ECOPA, because I share ECOPA’s
beliefs that we all have a responsibility to take care of the environment and
facilitate the sharing of knowledge to help educate and empower others to
do the same, while they make efficient use of the natural resources around
them. I know that the projects that ECOPA has in El Salvador, with farmers
and fishers, have a positive long term effect on their productivity, increasing
their ability to contribute organic products to the food chain, and improving
their economic well-being.

The new generations of people that I might encounter today, when I visit
coastal villages and agricultural areas of the lower Lempa region, will now
talk to me about the new sustainable models that they use to plant their
crops, catch their fish, or market their products. I know that these projects
improve their quality of life and I am looking forward to being a part of this
transformation that helps make their daily struggles a little easier to bear.